Over the past centuries, various architectural marvels have narrated tales of their times through their structure and craftsmanship. Doesn’t it amuse you how different architectural styles have a one-of-a-kind appeal and reveal the culture of their respective times?
Every era brought with it a different architectural style. The classification of most of the architectural styles is according to the respective periodical styles, marked with reflecting unique characteristics that often keep on changing over time.
Architectural eras have seen a specific and new type of architectural growth in building construction. One important thing to note is the connection between those periods and related construction styles. Each period or era flaunts its specific style. Sometimes, a period reflects the overflow of new ideas, and sometimes the merging of two contradictory ideas makes way for innovative architectural movements. Architecture is a fluid art that has evolved through the years, and we can say it is a constant movement, which is one of the essential things to take into consideration.
What is Architectural Style?
An architectural style is a representation of an art form in a building, making its features and structures historically identifiable. Based on the architectural style, there are different features and genres. The style talks about various aspects such as materials, regional character, form, method of making, and so on. The timeline of architectural styles is a complete chronology of the buildings and styles that keep changing over time. It is usually because of the changes in belief, fashion, and, of course, technology and innovation in new materials and tools for construction that architecture always keeps on exploring new horizons.
The styles of the different chronological eras are listed under architectural timeline. Based on the fashion of the period, the architects have contributed to adapting newer ideas. These architectural styles have, however, seen gradual development over time, with different twists based on the area they cover. The revival of a new or old genre in architecture is common. For instance, neoclassicism eventually brought back classicism.
Vernacular architecture has also found its way into modern architecture and is often considered a different part. The vernacular architecture, however, varies from one state or country to another but gives birth to national and international styles. Vernacular architecture is very prominent in India as well as in Western society.
Prominent Architectural Styles
From prehistoric architecture to modern and post-modern, art and architecture seem to flourish all the way. From Western to Eastern countries, each flourished through the prominence of architecture. Some popular types of architectural styles throughout history include:
- Prehistoric Times
- Ancient Egypt
- Classical Period
- Indian Architecture
- Buddhist Architecture
- Oceanic Architecture
- Korean Architecture
- Japanese Architecture
- Islamic Architecture
- Persian Architecture
- African Architecture
- Pre-Columbian Architecture
- Inca Architecture
- Ancient Architecture of North America
- Baroque Architecture
- Beaux-Art Architecture
- Early Modern Architecture
- International Architecture
Read on for more details about each of these styles.
01. Prehistoric Times
Ranging from 11,600 B.C. to 3,500 B.C., archaeologists have dug into prehistory to bring about the changes. It is one of the oldest architectural styles. Prehistory covers the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic), Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic), and New Stone Age (Neolithic) periods. Additionally, it also includes portions of the Bronze Age and Iron Age. One of the essential characteristics of prehistoric builders was the creation of structures in geometric patterns. One of the most excellent examples of prehistoric architecture is GöbekliTepe in the present day. Prehistoric architecture usually deals with different monumental structures, including cliff dwellings, Stonehenge, mud structures, thatch, and many more.
Southern Britain has some of the most excellent examples of prehistoric architecture, which are listed as prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stonehenge in Amesbury is another splendid example of prehistoric structures. Often, prehistoric buildings are considered the birthplace of architecture because they paved the way for the architectural roadmap later.
02. Ancient Egypt
This architectural style ranges from 3,050 B.C. to 900 B.C. It depicts a prominent period of Egyptian architecture. The Egyptians created the most impressive structures in the ancient world during the Historical timeline. The period saw the construction of some prominent pyramids with several noticeable architectural characteristics. Scholars over time have often considered this period of history in ancient Egypt as a unique one.
The pyramids of Egypt are some of the finest examples of engineering. The excellence of the Egyptians in engineering gave them the ability to build bigger tombs for their kings. It involved a higher degree of architectural knowledge to develop such structures. The Egyptian pyramids, tombs, and palaces still stand as monuments to mankind’s creativity and genius despite thousands of years of invading armies, earthquakes, and other natural calamities.
03. Classical Period
The classical period, which lies between 850 B.C.to 476 AD, derived its designs and styles from ancient Greece and Rome. The period between the rise of the Greek Empire and the fall of the Roman Empire eventually saw the construction of several buildings. The most important architectural feature that highlights classical architecture style is the column placed on the façade. The identifiable features of classical aesthetics include symmetry, proportion, rational order, and the relationship of individual parts to the whole and calm logic.
The Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius, from the first century BC, suggested the idea of using mathematical formulas to propound the construction of buildings. Vitruvius was the one to introduce the three different classical orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. In his book De Architectura (first published in Italian) or Ten Books on Architecture (English), he introduced the importance of symmetry and proportion for building construction. It helped in constructing and planning out symmetrically advanced and reliable structures later.
The entire history of these types of architectural styles began with classical architecture. The major focus points for classical architecture styles are:
- Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian Columns
- Marble, brick, and concrete in structures
- Motifs like moldings and boxed eaves
The Byzantine Empire brought into prominence classical forms, domed roofs, and mosaics. Basilicas, apses, mosaics, and clerestory are the most common structures found in this architectural style. The Basilica is a large, famous church. Byzantine architecture was a thorough combination of Eastern and Western traditions. One characteristic feature of these buildings was a central dome. This design spread to other parts of the Middle East as well. Undoubtedly, the architecture during this period was not only transformational but transitional as well. Hagia Sophia is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture.
Byzantine architecture, which had a more open utilisation of design elements, composed an enormous yet complex structure. Byzantine structures followed a geometric approach, utilising old styles. The key characteristics of this style are:
- Interior mosaics
- High domes
- Symmetrical planning
- Sumptuous ornamentation
The influence of Rome on Europe also brought about Romanesque architecture. It was prevalent during the 11th and 12th centuries. According to ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “The architectural styles of the buildings erected in Romanized Western Europe had characteristics like the semicircular-headed arch and the use of the basilican form for churches. The characteristic features of such architecture were round arches, barrel vaults, thick walls, large towers, sturdy pillars, supporting vaults, and decorative arcading. Every building has defined form and symmetrical plans, and the overall appearance is one of the simplest when compared to other complex architectural styles. One of the finest examples of Roman architecture in Europe is the Basilica of St. Sernin in Toulouse, France. It also brings into prominence the Latin influence.
The influence of Gothic culture came around the 12th century in the Western World. It not only supported the graceful structure but also far taller ones. Innovation was at its peak at that time. Some characteristic features of the buildings during this age were flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting. According to ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “Gothic is one of the architectural styles evolved in Europe from the late 12th century until the 16th century. It is the architecture of the pointed arch, pointed ribbed vaults, piers with clusters of shafts, deep buttresses, window tracery, pinnacles, spires, battlements, and a soaring verticality.” The buildings also saw the introduction of elaborate stained glass and clerestory windows. The prominent decoration materials used were gargoyles.
Some of the famous examples of Gothic buildings in today’s world include Chartres Cathedral and Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in France. Another well-known example is Adare Friary in Ireland.
The Renaissance period brought into prominence a significant development in the buildings. The architects during the Renaissance era were greatly inspired by the architects and builders from Greece and Rome. The Renaissance is often called the Italian Renaissance. It is a period of cultural rebirth. It brought the invention of perspective, bringing a sense of infinity to Renaissance paintings, thus helping humans shape the new humanist thought. As said by ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “Renaissance is an architectural style developed in the early 15th century that was based on the architecture of Roman antiquity.”
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is one of the examples of the Renaissance period. Andrea Palladio contributed to symmetrical villas like Villa Rotunda near Venice, Italy.
His ideas did not bring back the classical order of literature, but they reflected the historic timeline of ancient designs to a large extent. They, however, are also referred to as neoclassical architecture in the US.
The neoclassical style of architecture started gaining popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries.
i. Neoclassical Architecture
These types of architectural styles were a mix of Roman architecture with Greek features, and the principal feature was the grand scale of the buildings. One of the most famous structures constructed with neoclassical architecture’s design language is the White House in the United States. The following are several elements of the neoclassical architectural style:
- Grandiose in scale
- Simplicity in form
- Dramatic columns
- Flat or domed roofing
08. Indian Architecture
India is one of the ancient civilizations. The evolution of architecture in India has flourished in various ages in different parts and regions of the country. The earliest shreds of evidence of Indian architecture are found in the urban planning of the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappan civilizations. The development of cave architecture marks a crucial phase in the history of Indian architecture. In the post-Harappan period, the classification of architectural styles was done into Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain architectures.
The excavation of caves took place between the 2nd century B.C. and to the 10th century B.C., out of which the famous ones include Ajanta and Ellora caves, where huge temples have been carved of a single hill or rock. The ancient forts on the top of the hills, as well as the Sun temple at Konark, Odisha, and Modhera, Gujarat, are the classic combination of Indian architecture and astronomy. The roots of Indian architecture can be traced to classical ancient text in Sanskrit on Vastu shastra i.e. architecture like Mayamtam, Mansara-architecture, etc. These are also the texts which describe the construction technology of those days.
The emergence of Jainism and Buddhism helped in developing early architectural styles for building stupas, viharas, and chaityas. The Buddhist stupas are made of huge mounds of mud, enclosed in burnt-out standard bricks. The Sanchi stupa is a symbol of Mauryan architecture. The ancient temples built in India more than 1000 years ago are classic examples of Indian architecture. Many ancient temples had been destroyed by Barbaric invaders in the past. Temple architecture flourished in the 6th to 10th centuries. Khajuraho temple located in Madhya Pradesh is one of the splendid examples of temple architecture that simultaneously narrates knowledge from various disciplines.
Indian architecture has observed rapid growth and transformation along with the history of India. However, the evolution of architecture can be traced through the ages. Modern-day India has a diverse culture that is well represented in its architecture, such as the diversity from Hindu temple architecture to Islamic mosque architecture. These diverse cultures always help us understand the rich traditions prevalent in the land called India. UNESCO has listed 830 heritage sites in the world, out of which 26 are in India. It is a combination of indigenous styles and external influences, giving it a unique characteristic of its own.
In the medieval period, there was a combination of Persian architecture. The Indo-Persian style of architecture prevailed at that time. After that, the colonial period brought the influences of Western architectural forms to India. It is mostly seen in office buildings. The Parliament House and Connaught Palace in Delhi are examples of colonial architecture.
09. Buddhist Architecture
i. Indonesian Architecture
Indonesian architecture not only reflects cultural diversity but historical inheritance as well. The geographic location of Indonesia reflects the variation between Hindu-Buddhism architecture and Oceania. The arrival of Europeans and the spread of Islam also contributed to the popularity of Indonesian architecture and influenced it a lot. However, in the following years, modern art was as well-developed in the culture of Indonesian architecture. It is characterized by wooden pile dwellings, high-pitched roofs, and extended roof ridges. Pagaruyung Palace in Indonesia is an example of exclusive Indonesian architecture.
10. Oceanic Architecture
i. Chinese Architecture
Chinese architecture is very much an intermingling of the different architectural styles that once existed in different parts of Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Ryukyu. Modern times have observed a shift in the decorative style, but a significant portion remains unchanged. Most of the knowledge regarding Chinese architecture was passed on from generation to generation, especially by traders. The key architectural features are standing on a platform, a grand palace, and a three-layered platform. Ancient Chinese architecture is mainly made of timber. The buildings are usually built in square, round, hexagon, and octagon shapes and their architecture is always graceful in appearance. The Forbidden City, Beijing is an example of Chinese architecture.
11. Korean Architecture
Korean architecture is almost like the Eastern Asian building system. Korean architecture follows vertical and horizontal styles. The buildings are built according to the kan unit; the distance is usually measured between the two posts at about 3.7 meters. The kan unit is the traditional unit in Korean architecture and is still used to describe palaces, shrines, and Buddhist temples. Such architecture is characterized by the difference of transitional space between inside and outside. The curved line of the roof, eaves, and their overlapped composition are characteristic features of Korean architecture. Simplicity is the strength of this architecture. The Korean Bell of Friendship, in San Pedro, is an example of Korean architecture.
12. Japanese Architecture
Japanese culture had a significant influence on Japanese architecture. The features and characteristics make it widely different from other forms. It is characterized by wooden structures elevated from the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Moreover, the development of two new forms contributed to the militaristic climate. The castle is built as a defensive structure. After World War II, Japan saw a rise in modern architecture. Thus, from the 1950s on, modernism became an essential part of Japanese architecture. Byodo-in, Kyoto is the beauty of Japanese Architecture.
The main features of Japanese architecture are their use of wooden structures, which are noticeable in the old Tudor architectural style.
i. Tudor Architecture
The Tudor architecture was all about dream homes like cozy cottages and charms borrowed from the old world. The Tudor architecture style originated in England and amalgamated design elements from the Renaissance and Gothic styles. The signature elements composing Tudor homes are:
- Long and vertical wooden beams
- Half-timber details
- Double-toned exteriors
13. Islamic Architecture
Secular and religious architectural styles very much influenced Islamic architecture. It took inspiration from Islamic culture, and the roots of Islamic architecture are found even today. Islamic architecture is characterized by its wide range of distinctive features such as mosques, tombs, palaces, and forts. As said by ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “Islamic architecture has several characteristic features including pointed, multifoil, low, wide, four-centered, and horseshoe arch, cladding of coloured glazed earthenware and patterned tile work and serene geometry.” The widespread use of Islamic architecture gave further birth to Afro-Islamic, Ottoman, Moorish, and Tirmud architecture. The Taj Mahal is one of the magnificent examples of Islamic architecture.
The birth of Islamic architecture was marked during the 7th century and it originated in the Middle East. Most mosques built with this design language featured arches, courtyards, and domes. Islamic beliefs were reflected in the architectural form of this style. The major elements of Islamic architecture are:
- Geometric Motifs
- Calligraphy in structures
- Fountain or water features
14. Persian Architecture
Although its roots are in Persia, the prominence of Persian architecture is found in every corner of the world. Although it had met its downfall under Alexander, the ruins of the structures are enough to talk about this exquisite architecture. Moreover, the coming of the Parthians and Sassanids led to the development of new architectural design forms under Persian architecture. Semi-circular and oval-shaped vaults characterize Persian architecture. The architectural features representing this style are geometrical and repetitive forms, richly decorated with glazed tiles, carved stucco, patterned brickwork, floral motifs, and calligraphy. The Agha Bozorg mosque in Kashan, Iran is a fine example of Persian architecture.
15. African Architecture
Ethiopian architecture saw massive growth from the Aksumite style to other parts of the world. The most striking feature of such a form of architecture was the use of wood and round structures. The influence of the Aksumite style is still found in the Late Aksumite and Zagwe periods. The dominance of African architecture can be well found around Great Zimbabwe. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa is an example of African architecture.
16. Pre-Columbian Architecture
i. Mesoamerican Architecture
Mesoamerican architecture is a combination of Columbian and Mesoamerican (Maya, Aztec, Olmec) styles. The interrelationship of the different regional and historical styles has contributed to the growth of Mesoamerican architecture. One of the distinctive examples of Mesoamerican architecture is the pyramids. The development of architecture resulted in intensive cultural exchange. The central plaza of the Mayan city of Palenque (Chiapas, Mexico) is a fine example of classic period Mesoamerican architecture.
The Mediterranean Style is a different kind of architectural style that has influenced structures in America.
ii. Mediterranean Style Architecture
The Mediterranean style architecture had a major influence on American homes, as they featured openness and enticing ornamentation. These homes were especially found in the warm regions of the U.S. with warm and soothing tones along with stucco exteriors covering the facades. Common features of Mediterranean-style architecture are:
- Tiled roofing in terracotta
- White paint
- Stone details
- Intricately carved doors
17. Inca Architecture
Inca developed certain distinctive features of their architecture. Inca architecture is strongly characterized by the ability to merge its architecture with its surroundings. It is known for its fine masonry, which features precisely cut and shaped stones closely fitted without mortar. They were the ones to introduce the road system. The first rope suspension bridges in the world were Incan rope bridges. The Mayan temple of El Castillo is one of the most excellent examples of Inca architecture. Machu Picchu is also another excellent example of Inca architecture.
18. Ancient Architecture of North America
The public architecture of the United States and Mississippi is brought about by the prominence of culture. The Mississippian culture was brought about by the mound-building people for the large earthen platforms. The Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde in Colorado, United States is one of the most excellent examples created by the ancient Pueblo people.
19. Baroque Architecture
The period between Mannerism and Baroque marked an increase in anxiety and representation in the artwork. As said by ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “Baroque is a European architectural style of the 17th and 18th centuries derived from Mannerism and evolving into Rococo before Neo-Classicism eclipsed it.”Baroque architecture noticed a significant influence of science and philosophy apart from the mathematical representation and cultural influence. There were new variations in this type of architecture for everyone. The decorative tastes of Rocco gave a boost to the development of Baroque architecture. Notably, Baroque architecture is a highly decorative and theatrical style. In churches, it is highly characterized by broad naves (the central part of the church where services are held) with oval forms. It is deliberately left unfinished to give a unique feature to the design. The ceiling frescoes are on a large scale. The use of ornaments, plaster or marble gives it a decorative look.
20. Beaux-Art Architecture
Beaux-Arts architecture promotes the academic classic architectural style. Ecole des Beaux-Arts taught such architectural styles in Paris. As said by ‘James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson’, (Authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture), “Beaux-Arts is a florid classical style that evolved in Francein the second half of the 19th century, especially in Paris.” It was a coming together of two and a half centuries of instructions and authority — the style followed by Beaux-Arts architecture without any developments until 1968. The Palais Garnier is a cornerstone of Beaux-Arts architecture.
The Beaux-Arts style took birth in Paris and gained popularity in the U.S. as well. The scale of the building during this era was grand, with a dramatic appeal through ornamentation that was inspired by different styles like Greek, Roman, Italian, and French. The characteristics of this architectural style are:
- A formal approach to design
- Triangular Pediments
21. Early Modern Architecture
Early Modern architecture began with the introduction of similar characteristics, simplified form, and more ornamentation by 1900. However, by 1940, this architectural style had already spread across the world, primarily identified as a prominent international style. The key features of this style include building styles with similar characteristics, primarily the simplification of form and the elimination of ornaments. Einstein Tower is an example of early modern architecture.
After early modern architecture, expressionist architecture is an individual architectural style that has gained popularity.
i. Expressionist Architecture
Expressionist architecture was all about expressing emotions through building designs with the incorporation of materials like concrete, brick, and glass. The massing used to compose the sculptural form of the building was used to describe the emotional aspect of the design. Various architectural features of the expressionist architecture are:
- Adding novel materials to the design
- Unusual forms of structure
- Exploring new possibilities with technology
- Forms inspired by nature
22. International Architecture
International architecture was one of the key architectural trends during the 1920 and 1930. These were the buildings before World War II. International architecture was very much like that of modernism. The characteristic features include rectilinear form, open interior spaces, and a weightless quality generated using cantilever construction. Villa Savoye by architect Le Corbusier is an example of international architecture.
In addition to international architecture, there is another architectural style, which includes a wide range of building designs that may or may not be like one another.
i. Contemporary Architecture
One type of architectural style is contemporary architecture, and one of the core principles of contemporary architecture is the incorporation of sustainability. Various elements that define this style are:
- Computer-aided designs
- 3D printing
- Laser-cut technology
- Curvilinear forms
- Asymmetric designs
- Use of innovative materials
Modern architecture focuses on simple forms and ornament creation through the structures and themes of the building. The influence of modern architecture can be well observed in 21st-century corporate buildings. Different movements have contributed to the distinctiveness of modern architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is one of the most unique examples of modern architecture. Modern architecture has become possible due to modern construction technology with sophisticated plants, machinery, tools, and equipment along with new-age complex but strong materials.
A modern architectural style declined the addition of traditional ornaments and worked more in favour of neat aesthetics.
i. Modern Architecture
Architecture got a new definition with the works of various leading architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, in which form followed function.
The main characteristics of modern architecture are:
- Clean lines
- Utility in design
- Open planning
- A blend of the environment in architecture
Postmodern architecture is one of the architectural styles that continue to influence present-day architecture. It was the one that came in after the 1950s. Postmodern architecture observed the return of the “wit, ornament and reference” trend. Some of the prominent examples of postmodern architecture are the Portland Building in Portland, the Sony Building in New York, and the Las Vegas Strip.
A new type of architectural style called “neo-futurism” or “futuristic style” is emerging because of architecture’s rapid increase over time.
i. Neo-Futurism and Futuristic Architecture
Neo-futurism took flight in the early 21st century, with building designs aiming not only at aesthetics but also functionality. A tech-oriented yet green approach is what defines this architectural style. Characteristics of futuristic architecture are:
- An eco-sustainable approach
- Human-centric designs
- Innovation with novel materials
- An emotional aspect of the space designing
Summing up, architectural styles have only seen a gradual rise over the years. Several old and new building designs act as reminders of specific architectural eras that gave birth to several architectural styles that are relevant even today. The evolution of architecture has come across many varied cultures and landscapes. It marks the changes in architecture through various traditions, regions; and stylistic trends.
Kazi Ubaid/ Saili Sawant