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Greco-Roman Architecture

Dating back thousands of years, Greco-Roman architecture is based on architectural forms which were utilised by the Ancient Greeks, and, subsequently, became common features of architecture throughout the Roman Empire. Greco-Roman form had a significant influence on a number of subsequent architectural styles. Often associated with grand design and powerful structural statement, Greco-Roman architecture has had a profound impact on the built environment.

The Smithsonian Institution Building by architect James Renwrick Jr. Edward P. Vicenzi, Carol A. Grissom, Richard A. Livingston, Zoe Weldon-Yochim / CC BY

Key examples of Greco-Roman buildings include: the Arch of Titus, Rome, Italy; Temple of Heara II, Paestum, Italy; the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre), Rome, Italy; East wing of Buckingham Palace, London, UK; the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany; and the Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington D.C, US.

Symmetry, grace and synchronicity typify this architectural form. Almost invariably created from stone, bricks or cement, the buildings are often designed to create an authoritative landscape presence. Columns, arches, domes and lintels typify Greco-Roman construction. Classical architects relied heavily on mathematics to inform the design process. This resulted in strong, durable structures.

Villa Foscari by architect Andrea Pallaido Andrea Palladio / CC BY-SA

It’s no accident that so many ancient buildings survive to the present day! Greco-Roman buildings were constructed with an emphasis on both form and function. Although best-known for public buildings, Greco-Roman architects also designed aqueducts, triumphal arches, defensive walls and even watermills!

The extreme age of many Greco-Roman buildings means that the identity of the original architects has been lost in time. Architects who have reinvented the Greco-Roman style in a neoclassical manner include Andrea Palladio; John Nash; M Frederic Butler; Sir Christopher Wren; Sir Robert Smirke; and Jacques-Germain Soufflot.

Brandenburg Gate Berlin by architects Carl G Langhans & Johann G Schadow Superchilum / CC BY-SA

Cover Image Panthéon de Paris by Jacques-Germain Soufflot & Jean-Baptiste Rondelet David Monniaux / CC BY-SA