How to read a building

You can tell certain things about a building just by understanding the architecture. You can tell when and where it was built, and for what purpose. I have described the different architectural movements below.

CLASSICISM (Greek/Roman)

Classicism can be in different things, like art, architecture, literature etc, but it started in ancient Greece and Rome. They decided they wanted important buildings (like courts and temples) to come across as more important and authoritative. The use of columns not only held the building up, but it enforced the authority they wanted to show. You can still see columns used in this way in building today, for example the Sheffield Crown Court. The columns purpose is to project authority, which they have taken from classicism.

Sheffield Crown Court

Sheffield Crown Court



There are different types of columns, Doric, Ionic and Corthinthan.

Sketches of the different types of columns.

Sketches of the different types of columns.

GOTHIC (12-1600’s)

Gothic originated in medieval France that evolved from Roman classicism. The style is mostly seen on European Abbeys, Cathedrals, and remaining Castles/Palaces. The buildings are usually large with features and crenelations unique to the Gothic style. The shape of the buildings, roofs and supports usually form triangular forms as that is the structurally stable shape, which is why, like the roman columns, you can see similar designs in building today.

A famous Gothic building is Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

BAROQUE (1600’s)

Baroque started in Italy, and it takes inspiration from Roman design, and spread through most of Europe. The architecture is more decorative and extravagant than ancient Roman design, but the structure was quite similar. The idea of this style also is similar to the use of columns. Buildings in this sort of style were authoritative, and the style was widely used by Aristocracy to show to others their power, triumph and control.

This type of architecture can be seen a lot in Italy.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

I would say Chatsworth house is a Baroque building.

I would say Chatsworth house is a Baroque building.

ROCOCO (1800’s)

Rococo is quite similar to Baroque, but I would say it’s more elaborate and ‘fancy’. More colour is used, like white, gold, blue etc. It is also less about imposing power than Baroque, it is less intimidating and more theatrical. The clam shell shape is often used in Rococo art and architecture as well.

Wieskirche_rococo_interior hdr-rococo-415 lyceum_470x365Rococo styling is used in some, if not most theatres, This is The lyceum theatre above.


Neoclassicism reverted back to showing power and wealth through the building designs. The building were large and overpowering. They were made the exert power, but also reason and more rational.

Good examples of this type of architecture are the White House in America and the Nuremberg rally grounds in Germany.

untitled zeppelin_field_by_teslapunk-d343hsr

ART DECO (early 1900’s)

Art Deco uses craft and machine age styling which embraces technology, opposed to it’s predecessor, Art Nouveau, which is more organic and nature inspired. It can also take inspiration from Ancient Egypt/Aztec, as when the movement was in it’s prime, it was when people were discovering and learning more about those time periods. It was more prominent in North America, and some of the most famous examples of Art Deco architecture are the Empire State and Chrysler building.



MODERNISM (mid 20th century)

The Modernism and Post Modernism movements sound similar, but the meanings are different, and this can be seen in the architecture. Modernism is all about keeping things neat and modern, looking futuristic as well. It is very well defined, unlike Baroque and Rococo, because you can look at a modernist building and anyone can tell that it belongs to that movement. I would also say it’s minimalist.

Modern-Architecture modern-architecture-516

POST MODERNISM (mid/late 20th century)

Post Modernism broke away from keeping everything looking uniform. It still does keep with the times and they do have a futuristic feel to it, but the individual buildings are more unique and mostly take influence from its surroundings, and the town/country the building is.

'Cheese grater' building in Sheffield

‘Cheese grater’ building in Sheffield

A good example is the Sydney Opera House. The building is modern, even futuristic looking, and it also links with it’s surrounding, water, so it was made to resemble sails on a ship.



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