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Architectural style informs one of form, methods of construction, purpose for design, materials and techniques used in relation to the development and creation of any given building. A building's style in many instances can aid in establishing the date, time period and region in which it was built, thus providing an insight into potential reasons for its development, function and specific appearance. A building's style also provides great insight into its designer and the person or people that commissioned it, as it is a reflection of the wealth, knowledge, power and technology available to them at that time. Throughout time new styles have emerged and developed in many parts of the world, its evolution is a result of the rapid expansion and changing needs of civilizations in specific eras. Through the review of architectural styles and the buildings that were built in various periods one can establish the visions and aspirations of civilizations and there leaders in a specific region, at a certain time. It also provides a guide into the politics and ideology of any given society, and the relation between its rulers and the general public within that era.
Through time architectural style has held an increasingly important role within society, helping to shape and develop it whilst improving the manner in which we live. It has been a key in defining lines between old and new civilizations. The births of many styles throughout the world have been used as statements to mark symbolic moments in a society's history. The beginning of new eras, powers and beliefs has been throughout time marked all over the world via the development and construction of buildings boasting new architectural styles. In many instances the birth of these buildings and emerging styles were, and still are a product of technological advances in society. Advances produced through implementing new methods of construction with the discovery of new materials, thus allowing the possibility for new design and its feasibility for successful development. History shows that as architectural styles developed it was not always the case that theses emerging styles and new forms of buildings were a product of arrogance and pride but a cause of being a means to accommodate its society's needs. As civilizations developed, greater knowledge provided cultures with a justified consciousness for health, safety, quality of life and moral responsibility for the environment around them. Hence in recent architectural styles the number of buildings developed and constructed to meet and cater for function over form has increased as a response to society's greater understandings of natural land disasters, health and safety, carbon impact on the planet, preservation of the surrounding environment and the necessity for economical feasibility and efficiency.
Through the examination of Roman Architecture in the Classical period, one can see that the buildings of this style were aesthetically similar in many ways to those of the Ancient Greeks. Buildings consisted of familiar elements such as Classical Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, however the purpose for this style served a very different function. In the Roman Classicism period, the Romans used buildings as a means of servicing and providing for an extremely complex society, which was a result of a vast expanding empire. The Romans required a greater diversity of building types, over larger locations that were adequate to perform a number of desired tasks. Buildings such as Roman amphitheatres, baths, temples, aqueducts, palaces, circuses, harbours and towards the latter of the empire churches were required and built. In buildings such as the Colosseum, Rome, AD70-82, the Forum Romarum, Rome, 4th century AD, the Arch of Titus, Rome, AD82, the Arch of Tiberius at Orange, AD26 and the Basilica of Saint Paul, Rome, AD385, one can see that the Romans used and industrialised the arch, dome and vault, architectural elements that had not been seen or used prominently before of that period in Europe. The buildings from the Roman Classicism period were open to the possibility of space, more diverse types and greater sizes due to the implementation of these new architectural elements. The material they used also made this possible, the Romans had perfected concrete, as result making the use of marble redundant as a structural material, thus allowing them to create large open spaces shaded by vast heavy domed ceilings. It is here that buildings of the Roman Classicism period separated their rigid relationship with the associations of myth and nature that Hellenic Classicism structures had captured so well. The buildings from the historical style of Roman Classicism projected the association of the 'Glory of Rome'. Such was the intention of Rome's Emperors and its republic, that the buildings they created portrayed the grandeur of its own empire. Structures were not built as religious monuments to appease gods, but as a means to honour its Cesar, inspire Rome's armies, celebrate imperial victories and mark the triumphs of the great Roman Empire.
This choice of style was critical at this time in Europe as the Roman Empire required the aesthetics of Rome to be a symbol of their own power, a symbol not only to the people of Rome but to the rest of Europe. The new advances in building technologies and materials made it possible to build the empowering and mammoth structures found in Rome at that time, in turn enforcing the ideology of their society 'the Glory of Rome' to the rest of the world. This was vital as it aided the Roman Empire in expanding its rule, as through the view of societies from other countries Rome's architecture merely further enforced its feats and superiority whilst imbedding in them the ideology of their own inferiority by comparison along with the rest of Europe. In comparison to the Hellenic Classicism style it supplanted, Romans used architectural style and buildings in the same way as the Greeks, although only to portray a different association. The Ancient Greeks style is held with the association of their religious beliefs, they captured the reality and presence of mythology and the higher powers within their society and portrayed and engraved it into the buildings they built, though elements such as Doric columns, pediments, frieze and metopes, The Parthenon, Athens, 447-432BC, Ictinus being true testament to this. Like Roman Classicism this choice of style may have been critical, as it is possible that the society of that time were unified and held to a code of conduct through the buildings built and style used via the depictions of mythology they personified.
Gothic architecture lasting from the 12th to 16th century, also known as 'the French style' grew and developed from the Romanesque style that flourished across Europe until the late 12th Century. Within this style one can clearly distinguish the advance progressions in the architectural engineering made by the people of Europe during the Middle Ages in comparison to the engineering achievements the buildings of the Roman Classicism period boasted. Buildings of this style took on new heights of architectural expression as greater complex forms of buildings and architectural elements were born. The development of the pointed arch, tracery, flying buttresses, rib vaulting, the ogee arch, large windows, intricate stained glass to sanctify light and decorative patterns produced through perfected masonry, all quickly became standard traits recognized with this style. The collaboration of these intricate elements embedded into the buildings erected during this period, caused the association societies attributed with this style, which being, 'a glimpse at heaven on earth'. Building types that enforced this association were ones in which portrayed the Gothic style the best through elaborate expression, such as civic, educational and religious types, religious buildings being at the forefront of this emotional provoking style. The study of Gothic architecture thus falls to the study of the many great Cathedrals built during this period throughout Europe. The Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France, Pierre de Montreuil, 1234-8 and the Rheims Cathedral, Bernard de Soissons, 1211-90 typify the Gothic style and the philosophy behind it. The Rheims cathedral adopted and further emphasised architectural elements from Chartres cathedral, France, 1194-1225. Jean d'Orbais, it probable designer adopted the three tier elevation used in Chartres that were a representation of heaven and earth with man caught in the middle. This was a product of influential Catholic France, as at this time within the Middle Ages, scholastic and religious thought held a profound relationship with Gothic architecture and used it to portray the philosophy and theology of its societies along with the founding principles of many European universities. Other elements that expressed the philosophy behind the Gothic style, were the towers surmounted by spires, found on many cathedrals in France and around Europe, they were regarded as fingers pointing to heaven, again drawing on the association of heaven on earth. Masonry was also critical of this style, as it allowed the buildings to be adorned and animated with religious depictions of angels, gargoyles and symbolic events from the bible, characteristics which were pivotal to Gothic architecture. Flying buttresses, shafted piers, quadripartite vaults, portals, pier capitals and friezes were highly decorated and carved with such depictions. One can establish that during this style the use of materials, such as various stone, purbeck marble, red sandstone and various grades of limestone were critical. For instance the grades of limestone available in France were critical, as it was only the finest grade of limestone, Caen that enabled and encouraged the buildings of the Gothic style to be decorated and characterised in the way they were. If such fine stone had not been available at this time during Europe, the appearance of many great and famous cathedrals used as the definition of Gothic architecture may have taken a rather dull and less theatrical stance in the locations of which they were built. Thus failing to portray and define the philosophies and theologies of the societies during that era. In turn meaning these remaining churches and cathedrals today would perhaps not be considered as priceless works of art, nor be listed with UNESCOasWorld Heritage Sites, as they actually are.
By comparison Modernism was not bound by the influences of its society's religious beliefs, as well as not being an adaptation of the previous styles it succeeded. Buildings from the beginning of the Modernist movement such as Villa Savoye, Poissy, France, Le Corbusier, 1929-31, Penguin Pool, Regents Park Zoo, London, England, Berthold Lubetkin, 1934 to buildings from this present day were and are largely influenced by their purpose and desired function, and their simplified form lay in the hands of architects exempt from influences of rulers and religious monarchies. In the late 1920's the plain, unornamented and vertical buildings associated with International Modernism, began to emerge from architects such as Le Corbusier from France, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius of the German Bauhaus school. Although it wasn't until after World War II that Modernism was truly born and accepted. In the latter period of the 20th century the Modernist style became a wide spread dominant architectural style throughout Europe and the United States, with large scale institutional and corporate building projects rising from the ground up. These functionalist structures were a product of requirement, as the economy of cultures expanded through globalization, the necessity for large scale offices to house corporations employees increased, thus seeing tall buildings and skyscrapers rise up throughout New York, Chicago and in many other parts of the world as means to provide for the growing complex building needs of a global society.. The Seagram Building, New York, Mies van der Rohe, 1954-8, the Chrysler Building, New York, William van Alen and the Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpar, Cesar Pelli, 1988 are just a few examples of buildings constructed to meet functional requirements. This choice of style was critical at this time, as it symbolised the rehabilitation of the world, countries looked to this style as means to promote the promising future that lie ahead, and dismiss the horrific footprint left by both World Wars on the human race and the world. Materials and new building technologies were critical to this style as they allowed societies to produce buildings that achieved intrinsic beauty in contemporary terms, without the use of heavy ornamentation. Exterior forms appeared to be composed of effortless materials, curtains of glass clothed these modern structures, reflecting their surroundings whilst providing a wall between the internal and external. Glass, reinforced steel and industrial concrete made these building types possible, and the advances in other technologies such as earthquake resistant design, sophisticated air conditioning and heating systems meant that these buildings could expand from the temperate climates of the United States and Europe and be developed in countries with more extreme and varied climate conditions. In the present day, the modernism style has further advanced, due to societies needs to become more economically efficient and environmentally friendly. Numerous materials catering to these needs are available to use even on a domestic level, prices of these materials have become more reasonable due to international trade and the possibilities of outsourcing from other countries. Buildings of today and the future are and will continue to be influenced by cost, carbon impact and its green aesthetics so that societies may feel that as they progress and prosper so too may the earth.