History of Architecture - Quatr.us
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History of Architecture

Architecture is the art of building. Sometimes people build small buildings like sheds or their own houses. Other times people build very large buildings. These are sometimes temples or churches or mosques for the gods, or tombs for important kings or heroes, or palaces for kings and queens, or public buildings like theaters or sports stadiums.

People built the first houses around 7000 BC in West Asia, but the first big buildings were built much later, around 3000 BC. In West Asia the first big buildings were the ziggurats, and in Africa, in Egypt they were the Pyramids

A little later on, about 1800 BC, both the Egyptians and the Babylonians began to build big royal palaces, richly decorated. Soon the people of Crete and Greece began to imitate these palaces for their own kings and queens. In Egypt, the Pharaohs also built big temples for their gods.

Around 1000 BC a Dark Age kept people from building for a while, because they were too poor and worried, and when the Dark Age ended there were no more kings in Greece, and so no more palaces. The Greeks built a lot of temples for their gods at this time, especially the famous Parthenon. But in West Asia, the Assyrians, the Neo-Babylonians and the Persians all built palaces for their kings. Egypt was not rich enough anymore for big buildings.

Because Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and West Asia in 331 BC, Greek architecture spread all over his empire, and even beyond it into India. Theaters and gymnasia, as well as temples, were built wherever Alexander had fought.

When the Romans conquered their own Empire, they also built Roman buildings all over it. The Romans brought some new ideas to architecture: they built in brick and concrete, and they used the arch, the barrel vault, and the dome. They built theaters and amphitheaters, temples, palaces, basilicas, bath buildings, apartment blocks, restaurants and houses all over, from England to Iraq. They used apses in the ends of their buildings. The conversion of the Empire to Christianity about 350-400 AD also inspired the Romans to build a lot of churches. It was also about this time that people in India began to build Hindu temples, many of them cut out of the living rock.

With the fall of Rome about 450 AD architecture also collapsed for a while, and only small churches were built in Europe. In the Islamic empire, however, many beautiful mosques were built from Spain to India, and also many big palaces. Hindu temples also continued to be built.

By the time of Charlemagne in 800 AD, big buildings were going up again in Europe, like Charlemagne's own palace at Aachen. Soon big Romanesque churches were built all over England and France and Italy. Then, beginning around 1100 AD, the great Gothic cathedrals were built in Christian Europe, while mosques continued to be built in West Asia, Africa, India, and Spain.

Further reading about ancient and medieval architecture:

Arches to Zigzags: An Architecture ABC, by Michael J. Crosbie (2000). Shows what an arch is, or a gable, or an eave. For younger kids.

Eyewitness: Building, by Philip Wilkinson, Dave King, and Geoff Dann (2000). Lavishly illustrated, like other Eyewitness books for kids, and with good explanations of most architectural terms.

Amazing Buildings, by Philip Wilkinson (1993). For kids, but it shows modern buildings along with the ancient and medieval ones.

The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World: The Great Monuments and How They Were Built, by Chris Scarre (1999). Suitable for older kids, with details about ancient construction methods. How WERE the Pyramids built, anyhow?

Egyptian Pyramids
Greek Temples
Roman Amphitheaters
Chinese Pagodas
Indian Temples
Islamic Mosques
Medieval Cathedrals
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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