Neoclassical architecture refers to the architectural style that emerged during the revival of classical Greek and Roman architecture. That it began around 1750 and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. Renaissance architecture flourished in the nineteenth century. Greek Renaissance architecture uses various classical elements such as columns with Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian details. And we can characterize Neoclassical architecture by the restoration of the entire scale of classical volumes, often on a large scale. Some of the most famous and easily recognizable organizational and government buildings in Europe and the United States are in the neoclassical style.
The history of neoclassical architecture
When neoclassical architecture emerged in Europe in the 1750s, its classical restraint was celebrated as a reaction to the Baroque extravagance and decoration that had prevailed in Europe since about 1730. In addition, the discovery of the archaeological ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum fascinated the world and inspired builders and architects to study, appreciate, and eventually revive the architectural styles of ancient Greece and Rome, adapted to the present.
The neoclassical building style flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in continental Europe, Great Britain, and the United States, as well as in Latin America. In Russia, Catherine the Great (762-96) transformed St. Petersburg into a major European capital with her ambitious reception of neoclassical buildings. Around 1800, Britain fully embraced neoclassical architecture.
As a young country still full of ideas, the United States imitated the architectural styles of ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy, in the construction of many important government buildings such as the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
The trend toward neoclassical design eventually gave way to modernism in the early to mid-twentieth century. But even today, when contemporary architecture is the predominant architectural style, neoclassical buildings are designed and built on a smaller scale and often rebranded as new classical buildings.
What was Neoclassicism’s influence on architecture?
Of all the art forms, the neoclassical had the greatest and longest impact on architecture. Designers built many of the most important buildings in the world from the 18th century in the neoclassical style. These include museums, galleries, theaters, university buildings, and important government buildings.
Neoclassical was associated with the highest degree of civil or public architecture. It signified greatness, seriousness, and power.
Archaeological discoveries, again, were the main inspiration for neoclassical architects.
In addition, the neoclassicists used the works of the first-century Roman architect Vitruvius as a guide, which is why neoclassical architecture is sometimes called vitreous architecture. Neoclassicists observed his ideas of proportion and symmetry in many of the ancient ruins discovered in the 18th century.
Neoclassical architects, while influenced by classical architecture, they also influenced by Renaissance interpretations of classical architecture.
Neoclassical architecture is traditionally thought to have developed in two stages: the first was the Palladian period, around 1700-1750 because it was directly inspired by Palladio designs. London’s Chiswick House is perhaps the most famous example of this style.
Then, from 1750, we see great neoclassicism, or often simply neoclassicism. It differs from Palladianism in that, instead of the Roman style, it incorporates features derived from Greek buildings.
Examples of neoclassical architecture built in the eighteenth century are plentiful to list, but there are still a few prominent examples.
Perhaps the most impressive neoclassical building in St. Petersburg.
In Britain, several neoclassical architects became famous during the 18th century. For example, the designers of the Somerset Ingo Jones House in London redesigned and remodeled it in a neoclassical style. However, perhaps the most famous British neoclassical architects are Robert Adam and James Athena Stewart. Stuart’s ancient Athenian book of 1762, again based on archaeological discoveries, was a major influence on bringing Greek design concepts to Britain.
Other important neoclassical structures built in the 18th century include the Bank of London, designed by John Swan, and, of course, the White House in Washington, DC.
Key Elements of Neoclassical Architecture
We identify neoclassical buildings using the following:
Grand scale volumes
Simple geometric forms
Doric Greek or Roman detailing
Domed or flat roofs, depending on the style
3 Characteristics of Neoclassical Architecture
We characterize neoclassical architecture with a balance of complexity and simplicity. Here are three highlights: Here are three of its highlights:
Lack of ornamentation: We define both neoclassical exterior and interior design without extravagance or decoration. The architects of that period sought to respond to the Rococo style by emphasizing form and smoothness over glamor. These structures may be soaring and complex, but their designers do not feel the need to create extra space.
Tall columns: Perhaps nothing comes to mind more than the existence of soaring pillars, classical architecture, and the subsequent revival. These columns were mainly of three types – Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian – each with variations in style and form.
Remarkable roofing: Neoclassical roofs are one of the most prominent features of these buildings. Their interior rotundas – circular rooms with domed ceilings – provide an opportunity to stare up and see the height of a building from the inside. On the outside, you will often see triangular structures called pedicels, as well as freezers, which are long rectangular strips showing engravings and sculptures.