From a towering skyscraper to a functional factory, architecture is the art of planning a building. The word also refers to the different building styles seen throughout history. Looking at changes in architecture tells us about earlier societies: The materials that were available to their builders, the skills mastered by their engineers and the social ideals that they wished to express in their public buildings.

Architectural Features:

The main structural and functional features of a building are the roof, arches, wall, doors and windows. The architect combines the practical knowledge of how to construct these with the sense of how to combine shape, space and light to suit the function of the building itself.

Arch and Vault:

An arch is a curved or pointed structure that bridges a gap. It must carry the weight of the wall, floor or roof above and its structure allows it to support greater weight than a flat slab can A Vault is simply an arched ceiling.


Early in the 20th century, many western architects rejected all forms of building ornament. This is rare. Most buildings from other periods and cultures use it extensively and even a simple building will usually have some decoration to reflect the taste of its owner. The ancient Greeks, for instance, carved the tops, of capitals, of columns to dignify their most prestigious buildings. The distinct decorations were based on styles called ORDERS.


Domes – curved, solid roofs – were first built on palaces and religious building as striking symbols of the building’s status. They are often difficult to build and have been constructed in various shapes. The dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is hemispherical. The onion–shaped dome is popular feature of many Russian and Bavarian buildings.


All roofs are designed for the practical purpose of providing protection from the weather. The design and covering used will reflect the local climate. For instance, in a wet country, a sloping (Pitched) roof will let rain run off. Roofs can also be ingenious and beautiful, such as when crowning on ornate castle.

Classical Europe:

Classical Architecture is that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Both built by laying stones on top of each other or by resting beams on columns. The roman also developed the arch, vault, dome and the use of concrete to develop curved spaces.

Use of Concrete:

Cheap and durable, this material allowed roman architects to cover vast curved species which were impossible to construct before.


The Pantheon is a temple build to all the roman goods. Lights come through an opening in its vast dome and moves around the interior, lighting the curved walls. It is as if even the universe runs around the centre of the building, symbolizing the power of the roman deities.


This distinctive, ornate European style emerged in the 12th century and was used mainly in cathedrals and churches. Features include pointed arches and windows and elaborate stone tracery used to divide the opening in windows arches.

Building Innovations:

The pointed arch and flying buttress were innovations that allowed Gothic churches to soar higher than had been possible before. Pointed arches can support heavier, taller structures than round arches. They flying buttress is a stone rib which extends down and away from the walls, transferring weight to the ground and giving extra support to a roof or walls.


Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) returned to the use of Classical Features, rejecting the Gothic style. Architects all across Europe followed his example.

Southeast Asia and the Middle East:

The traditional architectural styles of Asia and the Middle East remained the same for centuries. Both were heavily influenced by religious belief: Buddhism and Hinduism in southern Asia and Islam in the Middle East. The style of building was determined by climate and the materials available to local builders. As early as the 7th century, wooden temples and monasteries were being built in China and Japan.

South and East Asia:

Many of the distinctive features of this area’s architecture originated in Buddhist India. An example is the multi – storied Pagoda, a temple which seems to stretch towards heaven. It was developed initially in Japan and China but was based on the spires found on early Indian temples. An important feature of many traditional Asian buildings is their imaginative roof forms.

Islamic Architecture:

The most important buildings in Islamic countries are usually mosques and tombs. The mosque is the centre of a Muslim community and provides space for group worship. It contains a prayer hall, often with a domed roof, and may also have a courtyard. A minaret, from which the faithful are called to prayer, is a typical feature.

Early American Civilizations:

The Aztecs, who ruled in what is now Mexico from the 14th to 16th centuries, built stone pyramids to their gods. The remains of five separate temples have been found at Tenochtitlan, built one on top of the other as new rulers erected bigger temples on the same site.

Baroque and Neoclassical:

The baroque style emerged in early 17th century Europe. It introduced buildings, with ornate decoction, complex shapes and dramatic lighting. It was followed by the neoclassical style which revived the more restrained classical traditions. This was partly as a reaction to Baroque excess.

The 19th and 20th Centuries:

The development of new, very strong materials, made it possible to construct buildings which were often highly original in style and owed little to the past. Helped by better technology, architects turned to glass, Steel and concrete to express their vision of modern architecture.


Following the arrival of reinforced steel, very tall structures could be built for the first time. An internal steel skeleton supports the weight of a skyscraper, such as the 102 storeys of the Empire State Building.

Interlocked Vaults:

The dramatic profile of the Opera House dominated Sydney Harbors. The buildings’ roof of interlocked vaults, made from reinforced concrete covered with gleaming tiles, resembles a ship in sail.


The invention of the lift during the 19th century made it practical to build skyscrapers and the first appeared in Chicago - USA in the 1880s. Today, most are constructed for large businesses. They convey perfectly an image of wealth, size and strength.


An architect designs a building and oversees its construction. Successful architects become very well–known. Until recently, architects draw large numbers of plants to instruct builders and engineers. Much of this work is now carried out on computer.

Le Corbusier:

Le Corbusier was the name used by the Swiss – French Charles Edouard Jeanerette (1887 – 1965), the most influential 20th century architect. Le Corbusier promoted the use of new materials and construction techniques. His imaginative buildings favored plain often severe, geometric forms of Architecture.


2650 BC The Step Pyramid in Egypt is designed in the history of Architecture.

C.300 BC Buddhist temple mounds appear in India.

AD 82 Colosseum built in Rome. Dozens of stone arches support the walls of this stone arena.

690 – 850 Early Islamic buildings are designed around courtyards.

1100 – 1500 Gothic Churches built in Europe.

C.1420 Renaissance begins in Italy. Architects return to the elegant, ordered values of classical builders.

19th century: Industrial revolution: Mass – produced materials transform construction.

1920s International Modernism begins typified by glass and steel towers and flat roofed, white houses.

1970 Postmodernism develops. It refers to past styles, in a humorous way. Strong colors are popular.

1990s Eco – friendly architecture reflects environmental concerns about energy – saving and recycling.

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