The history of architecture dates back to the time of our early human ancestors that struggled against the rigours of their environments to improve their rudimentary lifestyles. During the Neolithic period, about 12,000 years ago, the ice age was ending and food was abundant. This is when humans first began fashioning homes and buildings that suited the needs of their times.
The first buildings were designed and built to serve the functional, practical, aesthetic and ergonomic needs of this ancient time.
This tendency to suit the needs of the time is an important aspect of how the history of architecture reflects human history. Modern architecture is defined by a considerable emphasis on aesthetic value. But there are many more forces at work forming the architecture that matches the needs of society.
Architecture has been designed to be fearsome, elegant, vernacular, warm and functional. The needs of the society will dictate which of these values will be emphasized and in which way. This provides important material evidence of the way societies developed to meet the demands of their times. This provides invaluable information on the way societies and cultures have evolved. Before we get into the main part of the article I would recommend seeing ‘build cost calculator free‘.
A Global History of Architecture – What We Study Today
Winston Churchill said history was “written by the victors.” This adage best describes the forces at play that shaped the trends and tendencies of architectural history. It is fair to say that the oldest buildings standing are those built by the most successful and prominent civilizations of their time. Some fine examples of this include the colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. These marvels of architectural genius stand as testaments to the ingenuity, resources and power of civilization.
The architecture of the Roman Empire would be a fine example of a powerful civilization whose architecture left an indelible print on the modern world. Because Roman architecture is one of the most recent examples of ancient architecture it has been especially well preserved and gives historians a great understanding of how and why these ancient buildings were constructed.
Romans built certain buildings for religious purposes; these were the ‘sacral’ buildings. Buildings designed and constructed for civic purposes were called ‘secular’ buildings. The needs of the civilization of the time were influential in the designs of these buildings and allowed us to understand the Romans better.
Another good example of this is the way ancient civilizations that have developed a strong belief in the afterlife have reflected this cultural tendency in their architecture. The idea was to preserve the body within a tomb that would carry the soul of the departed through eternity. For this reason, we see that many civilizations have built mausoleums that have stood through the ages. The mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one good example.
The Ziggurat and the Pyramid
When one considers the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, it is only natural to consider the Great Ziggurat of Ur as one of the most significant. This building has received much acclaim for its great age of over 4,000 years. It is also reputed to be the fabled Tower of Babel mentioned in religious texts.
But the Mesopotamian Ziggurat was also a functional building; a religious ceremony would be held on its many terraces. The design of the Great Ziggurat of Ur has been reflected in the architecture of civilizations that followed. The pyramid itself was a symbol of great cultural significance. As a well-constructed pyramid, this symbol signified the connection between the earth and the sky.
But there were also practical Reasons for constructing a pyramid, for one, they were especially easy to defend. The Egyptians constructed stepped pyramids in the 3rd century as directed by Imhotep, one of history’s finest architects. It was not until the 4th century that Egyptians adopted the smooth-sided Pyramid, which has been a marvel to architects ever since. In the Americas, many of the pyramids constructed by Mesoamerican civilizations bear a striking resemblance to the Ziggurat of Ur, even though these buildings were built many years later.