Seeing unique pieces of architecture—from ancient ruins to Gothic cathedrals to opulent palaces—is one of the most exciting reasons to travel the world. Different styles develop and evolve over time as designers are influenced by changing beliefs, technology and available materials.
Ready to brush up on your knowledge of architecture? Read on for an overview of the key movements associated with the sites you may come across on your adventures.
Prehistoric architecture remains largely a mystery, as it was created before recorded history. Humans built structures with earth and stones, such as England‘s Stonehenge structure, which to this day continues to puzzle historians and tourists alike.
The ancient Egyptians were master engineers who constructed buildings from limestone, granite and sun-baked mud, then decorated them with hieroglyphics. The colossal Pyramids of Giza, built as tombs for Egyptian kings, are the only remaining “Wonder of the Ancient World” still standing today.
Ancient Mediterranean civilizations developed rational systems for building symmetrical structures. In the Greek then Roman empires, mathematics and geometry were used to create elements in distinct proportions, like the Colosseum in Rome.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Eastern-influenced design flourished in Constantinople, the city known today as Istanbul. The iconic dome and elaborate mosaics of the 6th-century Hagia Sofia beautifully represent the style of this period in architectural history.
Between the 9th to 15th centuries, religion and the church was the focus of everyday life in Europe. The transitional Romanesque style was simple and austere, as seen in churches like the Basilica of St. Sernin in France. Cathedrals reached soaring new heights as the Gothic style evolved, characterized by pointed arches, decorative sculptures and stained glass windows. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is a famously recognizable Gothic structure.
Generally designated as the time period from 1425 to 1660 in Europe, the Age of Awakening was seen in a rebirth of Classical ideals and principles in architecture. Brunelleschi’s striking Duomo in Florence is one of the many Renaissance masterpieces that can be found in Italy.
The magnificent Palace of Versailles in France is the epitome of this elaborate style. From the 1600s to 1800s, the decorative, opulent trend of the Baroque style also influenced music, art and science of the time. In Eastern Europe and Russia, a softer version of Baroque style called Rococo architecture resulted in structures that feature pale colors and curving shapes.
Neoclassical architecture was another return to the orderly principles of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and coincided with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. Many buildings in the United States were built in this style, as well as the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Art Nouveau, which translates from French to “new style,” refers to the trend of turning to nature for design influences in the late 1800s. Though it had different names in different countries, this style is expressed in features that include asymmetrical shapes and curved forms. Otto Wagner’s Majolica House in Vienna is a prime example.
Modernism & Postmodernism
After the Industrial Revolution, there was a movement in the 20th century away from tradition and toward functional design. This resulted in a variety of modernist styles, including Futurism in Italy, Constructivism in Russia and Brutalism around the world. In reaction to these styles, other diverse postmodern styles continue to develop today.
Have you seen any of these styles of architecture in your travels? Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!