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Architectural Styles: Classic

Classical architecture is a very famous architectural style and is used to this day, although its origin and essence are quite ancient, beginning in the 7th century BC, located in the Mediterranean Sea, in the civilizations of Greece and ancient Rome.

The Classic style is synonymous with proportion and harmony. The first works in this style were large-scale religious temples, later public buildings and city landmarks.

In addition to ancient classical architecture, when we speak of classical architectural style, we may also be referring to Classicism, both of which are styles from somewhat distant periods, which nevertheless share certain ideals.

The classic

To start approaching the Classic, it is necessary to differentiate what was Classical Antiquity from Classicism.

Classical Antiquity, or Classical period, was a historical period that occurred between the 7th and 5th centuries BC, in the Greco-Roman civilization, which, from then on, began to exert a relevant influence in Europe, Asia and the north. from Africa.

Classicism, on the other hand, emerged in 16th-century Europe, developed parallel to the context of the Renaissance and can be seen as a derivation of Classical Antiquity, as it used it as an inspiration for the works.

The classic style is characterized by harmony, the parts of the building are proportional to each other and as a whole. Furthermore, symmetry and ornamentation without exuberance mark the Classic style.

Classical architecture: historical context 

What is understood as a period of classical architecture, is located in the production of Greece and ancient Rome, with the built work being mainly composed of religious temples, large-scale buildings, which were built in stone?

The essence of the Greek Classical style was to achieve perfect harmony in its buildings. For this, the builders used mathematics as an expression of human rationality, together with aesthetics.

Later, the Classical Roman style appropriated the Classical Greek style, influenced by the Etruscans, whose constructions had their own characteristics, such as solidity, sobriety and the use of elements such as arches and vaults, for example.

The main features of classical architecture

Classical architecture is totally created from the concepts of harmony, order, symmetry and geometry, resulting in totally symmetrical and orthogonal works, governed by main axes. Thus, classical architects believed to reach perfection and the work could be considered beautiful.

Balance was another very important feature, achieved from mathematical functions, such as the golden ratio, for example. Thus, the elements of the building were proportional to each other and to the whole.

Orders of Greek Classical Architecture

Classical Greek architecture also had very characteristic decorative elements, which became known as a symbol of this style and marked an era.

This gave rise to three architectural orders: the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Such orders were used to create the building’s columns, an architectural element often used to create galleries on the perimeter of buildings, as well as to decorate the main façades.

Doric column illustration, Greek Classic Style.

The Doric order is the oldest and therefore the simplest and most robust. The columns of the Doric order do not contain a base or a capital, the only kind of decoration on such hills were the friezes along their height, and a simple frame as the upper end.

Columns of the Doric order usually have a height of 8 diameters and were used in buildings that honored male gods, because of their rudimentary lines and proportion linked to the male body.

Ionic column illustration.

The Ionic order can be seen as a middle ground between the Doric and the Ionic, as it results in an average relationship between the robust and delicate proportions.

Its lines allude to those of the female body; characterized by slenderness, it presents a light and fluid profile, being the opposite of the Doric order.

Columns of the Ionic order are nine times taller than their diameter. This one has a base, a capital adorned with parchments and its height has 24 vertical lines.

Corinthian column illustration.

The Corinthian order is considered an evolution of the Ionian order and the most beautiful of the classical orders.

Corinthian columns have a height of ten times their diameter, being the slenderest of the classical Greek columns. Its most characteristic element is the capital, which is quite adorned with leaves; in addition, it has a base and vertical lines in its height.

Characteristics of classic Roman architecture

Classical Roman architecture, influenced by the Greeks, also generated orders for the columns of its buildings, heavily inspired by the Greek originals.

In Rome, two orders for classical Roman architecture were created: the Tuscan and the composite.

Tuscan column illustration.

The first of these is the Tuscan, which can be considered a simplification of the Doric order, the first Greek order. These columns have seven diameters in height, in addition to a poorly ornamented capital and base.

The Tuscan order was used for buildings in which ornaments would be superfluous, such as prisons and fortifications.

Composite column illustration.

The composite order, on the other hand, can be seen as a derivation that mixes the classical Greek, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Such columns have a height of ten times their diameter. Its capital mixes elements of the Ionic order with those of Corinth.

In addition to orders, symmetry and mathematics, classical Roman architecture was concerned with the functionality of each building, with its resistance and its spatial amplitude.

Another innovation in classical Roman architecture is in materials. At a time when construction was basically made using stones, such works began to be built in concrete, increasing its solidity and durability.

Landmarks of classical architecture in the world

Classical architecture-built works that are until today true world landmarks, the Parthenon, in Athens, and the Coliseum, in Rome, for example.

On the one hand, classical Greek architecture mainly built works designed to house religious programs, while classical Roman architecture was used to erect buildings with various functions in addition to temples, such as amphitheaters, aqueducts and even public baths.


Classic Style: Parthenon, Athens.

The Parthenon is among the most emblematic works of Greek classical architecture, being one of the most visited buildings in Greece to this day. Built in the 5th century BC, the temple was designed by the architects Callícrates and Ictinos and decorated by the sculptor Phidias and his team.

The Parthenon temple was built especially dedicated to the goddess Athena, materialized in a sculpture, made in ivory and gold, which occupied the interior of the work.

Located in a high area of ​​the Acropolis of Athens, the temple was built entirely in stone, from a base of three steps. With a rectangular plan, its perimeter is surrounded by a series of Doric columns, an order that governs the entire building, forming a gallery, which supported an entablature.


Classic Style: Pantheon, Rome.

Located in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome, the Pantheon is one of the most outstanding works of classical Roman architecture. Commissioned in the year 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa, and rebuilt in the year 110 by Hadrian, after two fires at the site, the building is then the third existing construction on the site.

The circular building is covered by an immense dome, which is the star of the building. In the center of the dome, more than 40 meters high, there is an oculus, which bathes the interior space in natural light in a unique way.

The main façade of the building is demarcated by a portico with a series of Corinthian columns supporting a pediment.

The Pantheon building presented structural innovations that were quite relevant for the time; Constructed of concrete, 6-meter-thick cylindrical walls support the dome of concrete coffers, which for a long time was considered the largest in the world.

classicist architecture: historical context

Classicism was an architectural style well after the classical period, which uses it as an inspiration, following its essential characteristics.

Classicist architecture is one that combines two main characteristics of classical architecture: the harmony and proportion of the parts of the building, and the decorative elements derived from Greco-Roman architecture.

Emerging in Europe during the 14th century, the Classicism movement marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age. Classicism is parallel to the Renaissance period and was present both in architecture and in the visual arts, literature and music.

David Michelangelo was one of the most important artists of Classicism, who, in his works, sought perfect proportion, symmetry, in addition to the notable valorization of the human figure.

Among the main characteristics of Classicism are recurrent representations of Greek and Roman scenes, balance, harmony, the solidity of constructions, formal rigor, appreciation of rationality and greatness of intentions.

Classicism in Portugal

Classicism in Portugal began in the 16th century, in the field of literature, and was marked by the arrival of the poet Francisco Sá de Miranda to Portugal, who, inspired by Italian humanism, brought a new form of poetry, called dolce stil nuevo (“sweet” new style”). The poets of that period valued the achievements of the Portuguese people.

Rua Augusta Arch, Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal.  Rua Augusta Arch, Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal.

In architecture, the greatest example of Classicism in the country is the Arco da Rua Augusta, in Praça do Comércio, in Lisbon, whose construction dates back to the literary movement of Classicism, in 1875.

Classic style in Brazil

Although we can daily perceive elements of classical architecture in buildings throughout Brazil, there is in fact no classical architecture in the country, but neoclassical architecture.

As Brazil is a country colonized by Europeans, the architectural styles present here are derivations, much later, which received local influences and, therefore, are classified as different styles from those of origin and receive the term “neo” before the name of the style.

After the period of such styles known as historicist, in the beginning of the 20th century, Brazil introduced the modernist style, from which important buildings were designed throughout the country.