1350-1500| Humanist Italy – 1500-1600|The Ottoman Empire

Humanist Italy

Renaissance also knows as the movement to revive ancient Greco-Roman culture had some effects on Florence. The artists and architects in Florence had not only copied thee antiquity but also discovered some principles of design in order to surpass their models.

Painters led the way by perfecting perspective vision, a scientific mode of seeing that put all the parts in relation to the whole. Architects followed, discovering harmonious proportions linked to the classical orders.


Piero della Francesca – Ideal City (Perspective Vision in Renaissance)

Humanism affected the new palaces and churches and also Italian cities changed their character and they became more uniform scale and geometric basis.

The Dome of Florence and Its Architect, Filippo Brunelleschi

The wealthiest families from merchant dominated the artistic output of Florence during the fourteenth century.  Thanks to their collective resources they sponsored great civic projects, including the public palace -Palazza Vecchio- the new cathedral of Santa Maria del Flore, the public grain market of Or San Michele, the city walls and the bridges.

Most public works in Florence used rounded arches, symmetrically placed bays and harmonious proportions that were based on whole numbers such as 1:1, 1:2 and 2:3. Because of these ratios, they came up with a new way of seeing and treating for buildings as freestanding objects in proportional scale. Public space of city principals developed after the emergence of perspective vision. L-shaped Piazza della Signoria that surrounded Palazzo Vecchio is an example of this situation. During the 14th century, the urban magistrates made a final patch of houses to connect initial rectangular piazza on the north to a second piazza that served the new southwest entry. These two enlarged spaces came together on a grid of flagstones and brick pavers. The city’s public palace and a bell tower placed in relation to its surroundings.


Piazza della Signoria

The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore’s construction began in 1296.Arnolfo di Cambio was the designer of the cathedral who was the designers of that time civic projects. He proposed a simple Gothic style with quadripartite ribbed vaults spanning the nave and two side aisles. A few years later Francesco Talenti extended the length of the nave an extra bay and outlined the area for a huge octagonal dome. The diameter of the dome was as wide as Pantheon in Rome. Neri di Fioravanti came up with a scale that was showing the dome’s central octagon. Central octagon was stepped down to three partial octagons and each of them contained five radiating chapels.

The structural system of Fioravanti’s dome was based on the twelfth-century Baptistery of San Giovanni. After a competition in 1418, Filippo Brunelleschi took charge of the project. The architect -Brunelleschi- amazed the city by proposing to build new dome without falsework, he invented a structure that supported the dome during the process of construction. Brunelleschi’s dome had a double-shelled structure. Combination of clever masonry techniques and a ribbed skeleton girded by nine horizontal supports concealed between two layers was the main idea of Brunelleschi’s double-shelled dome. Brunelleschi used some Gothic programs elements such as pointed arches and ribs he also added some several all’antica motifs to exterior of the dome. Dome has a lantern that crowning it, completed after Brunelleschi’s death. It has some buttresses made with classical fluted pilasters and reserved-curve volutes.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

The same year with the beginning of the construction of the dome, Brunelleschi designed the Founding Hospital (Ospedale degli innocent) originally an orphanage. While designing the hospital, Brunelleschi took references from earlier hospitals in Florence, he used long halls and courtyards set behind a public loggia, the façade has a distinct classical appearance, with ancient-style Corinthian columns and pilasters. The hospital had a stage like relation with the piazza and this stage like relation added an even greater sense of drama.


Courtyard f Ospedale Degli Innocenti

The dome of the Old Sancristy of San Lorenzo was also designed by Brunelleschi and it financed by the Medici family. The system of San Lorenzo included the tomb for the patron and his wife under the table in the center of the room. The dome settles in the cubic volume on pendentives, resembling the shape of a hemispherical umbrella divided by twelve round-arch ribs. A smaller hemispherical dome covered the dome.

The church of San Lorenzo rebuilt by Brunelleschi in 1420s. Michelozzo, the Medici family architect completed this ongoing project during the following four decades.  The church reminded the early Christian basilicas of Rome, such as Santa Maria Maggiore. They placed a flat coffered ceiling over the nave, while setting the side aisles behind arcades raised on slender Corinthian columns. Brunelleschi and Michelozzo maintain a new sense of rational clarity and luminosity for a sacred space.

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire settled in western Anatolia during the fourteenth century and the aim was reviving the power of the ancient Roman Empire. Their engagement to urban culture was foundation of imarets that included a mosque, a tomb, a bath, a religious school and a soup kitchen The Ottomans put a shallow dome over every bay of their significant building and this situation led to create a strong sense of internal order. After conquering Constantinople in 1453, design of the mosques was influenced by the church of Hagia Sophia. Sinan who was the main architect in Ottoman Empire, he established an Ottoman style as assured and recognizable as that of the ancient Roman.

 The Prospect of a Muslim Roman Empire: Royal Mosques and Imarets

The Turks in Anatolia mostly called by the name of “Rum” and they looked forward to Roman precedents in their conquests. They continued a well-organized military to oversee the construction and maintenance of public works like the ancient Romans. The impressive projects of infrastructure built by the Ottoman army, like the new walls of Jerusalem, the Süleyman Bridge at Büyükçekmece, and the Mağlova aqueduct, rivaled those of the Romans.

The Ottomans encouraged a rich urban life like building markets, baths and great religious complexes. Ottoman urbanism displayed a preference for local symmetry, in which only the parts of a larger whole remained in equilibrium.

Ottoman architects were influenced by Anatolian region for their architectural models. They imitated the vaulted masonry of Armenian churches, the beehive domes of Seljuk tombs and Persian arcades.

 The Orhan Gazi Cami (mosque) built in Bursa in 1339 designed as the basic reverse T plan of early Ottoman royal mosques. The entry façade of mosque had a five-bay porch, made with pointed arches. Interior of the mosque, there are 2 central domes covered an axial prayer hall leading to mihrab, while the minor domes on the sides covered rooms.


Orhan Gazi Camii

The reverse T shape mosque type used in many other royal foundations in Bursa. Green Mosque -Yeşil Cami- is one of the example. Unlike the strange details on Orhan’s mosque, they brought together all elements proportionally and repeated them serially. Upper story windows glazed with green and blue panes brought light into the mosque and delicate muqarnas articulated niches.


Green Mosque

It belonged to a religious imaret and a charitable institution which was introduced by the Ottomans. Imarets usually included a mosque, a turbe (tomb of the donor) one or more madrasas (religious schools) a hammam (bath) and sometimes a hospital and a tekke for the monks.

The Ulu Cami is differed in type from the reverse T royal mosques. It has the hypostyle model that found throughout Southwest Asia. It has bays and each of its twenty bays carried a rounded dome. This square bay with a rounded dome became a unit in Ottoman architecture that they repeated in many buildings.

Constantinople Becomes Istanbul

Constantinople conquered in 1453 by Mehmed II known as Fatih, the Conqueror. They changed the name of the city Constantinople to Istanbul and after the change of the name, Mehmed II tried to rearrange the population by allowing Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Italian traders to settle. In order to encouraged he merchant activity, he built the markets of Kapali Çarşi which like the Koza Han in Bursa. It has square bays capped with rounded, lead-covered domes.

Kapalı Çarşı (Istanbul) Koza Han (Bursa)

The young sultan considered the majestic Hagia Sophia s his great prize and quickly coverted the venerable Palatine church into a royal mosque. They added a minaret and three others were added later he inserted into its eastern apse a mihrab. The Fatih Cami was also inspired by the great Byzantine church.

1200-1350| Gothic Europe

Traders of Italia gained great success in Mediterranean and because of this success the culture exchange and possible commercial of the rest Europe spirited up. In France Gothic style was encouraged by both monarchy and clergy as both a cultural and a natural enterprise. In contrast to heavy barrel vaults of Romanesque churches, the Gothic cathedrals had pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses to achieve glamorous heights and mysterious luminosity.

The City Returns: Market Towns and New Towns

The birth of Gothic architecture coincided with the groundswell of medieval European urbanism. City walls expended because of the new prosperity of the cities and this formation encouraged the gigantic cathedrals and impressive civic buildings such as town halls, covered markets and hospitals. Most towns built on orthogonal plans that revived the idea of public space.

The counts of Champagne and the bishop of Troyes settled their palaces in the old town. They encouraged the traders and the growing economy of Troyes helped the reconstruction of the cathedral, the founding of the new church of St. Urbain, and the foundation of a new hospital.


St. Urbain Facade

The hospital of Troyes had similar approach with the hospital of Notre-Dame de Fontenilles at Tonnerre. Both structures had a hall which was covered with a wooden barrel vault.

The canal system of the Troyes also improved and several civic monuments such as the Belfry, the Cloth Hall and the Waterhalle also constructed in the city. The Belfry’s courtyard resembled the fonduk type in Cairo without the traders’ apartment above and it became the model for European stock exchange building. The Waterhalle was also constructed the same year with the Belfry and it had an immense covered hall, fifteen bays long which straddled the canal. The pitch of the roof at each end are designed with stepped gables by designer.

The Zahringer counts started the concept of the new town as an establishment. They sponsored a lot of market towns and each of them structured on a broad central street. One of the most successful one was Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Berne. They latterly, created a second street, cross-axial to the first. The Zahringer planners didn’t leave specific sites for cathedrals and town street. But after construction the citizens found secondary positions for religious and institutional buildings.

The Gothic Cathedral: The Grown of the City

Gothic style in church building gave distinct details to classical style of the Romans. It was nurtured by the building explosion in European. The designers started to experiment with slender structural members to achieve verticality. They suggested to eliminate the mass of walls and create heavenly interior light. In order to achieve this idea, they used 3 structural expedients: pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. Those systems were not an invention but by bringing them together they served the symbolic potential of light.

Barrel Vault, Flying Buttress, Pointed Arch

Gothic architecture began with Abbot Suger who was a Benedictine monk. He wrote down his ideas about reconstruction of the abbey church of St. Denis. The interior of the church was thought as glass window to achieve the light. He started to design the facade of the church. He kept the imperial Carolingian westworks and insert between two towers an oculus. This motif became a repetitive pattern for all successive Gothic churches’ facade. 

St. Denis Facade and rose glasses

Reconstruction of the St. Denis by Abbot Suger gave inspiration to other churches construction. By the end of the 12th century more than a dozen large cathedrals was underway in Gothic style.

The designers of the Notre Dame at Laon improved Suger’s concepts to a comprehensive architectonic system. The cathedral finished in 1215 and it provided a symbol of cohesion for once-divided city. The church was seeing in plan like the apse squared off without the typical chevet, while the choir extends beyond the transept almost isomorphic with the nave. Ribbed vaults extended both areas but they leaved syncopated rhythm in the slender supports that sprang from regular, stout ground-floor columns. The ribbed vaults supported by external flying buttresses, settle between large voided areas for tall windows that brought daylight to interior.

The cathedral at Chartres began as a small church and rebuilt after a fire. While this reconstruction they expanded the church and increase the cathedral’s strong attraction for pilgrims. The new church seemed as overscale for a city of fewer than 10000 residents. The church was working on a vertical axis with the help of the spires and buttresses.


Chartres Cathedral

Verticality became a theological necessity for Gothic cathedral builders. The ribbed vaults of the Chartres reached almost 38 m.  The flying buttresses on the exterior of the Chartres worked as a light proceeded. Exterior flying buttresses received the thrusts of the vaults as exoskeletal flyers. The lower flyers sprouted rows of stout columns like the spokes of a wheel.

600-800| The Spread of Islam

Islam is a religion that developed around the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and began in Arabian Desert. The religion was easy to grasp that’s why it gained wide approval. The cities built up around the religion Islam, include mosques which generally built as multicolumned prayer hall. Mosques also had minaret which are a slender tower for the muezzin or crier. Thanks to these minarets cities gained a vertical axis.

Mecca and Medina: The Cities of Muhammad and His Followers

The new religion of Muhammad settled in an oasis settlement which was Mecca and Medina. During the seventh century Islam spread rapidly. For a long time, Mecca was a significant cult site for the nomadic tribes of Arabia. Kaaba, which is a cubical granite house, included a mysterious black meteorite and containing many idols, has a religious meaning for pilgrims and they were coming through Kaaba. After many battles between Muhammad and the non-believer to him, Mecca finally conquered, and Muhammad stripped the Kaaba of its pagan iconography. After the half of the seventh century Kaaba was covered a black silk drape for protection. Kaaba is a representation of the faithfulness of the Muslims.kaaba-1024x681


Apart from the Kaaba in Mecca, Muhammad turned his own house as first congregational mosque. In 620s, Muhammad and his followers added a square courtyard to the west of the Prophet’s house. Muhammad supported religious attitudes in architecture and using vernacular methods for mud-brick walls and palm-trunk roof. The first prayer hall faced through Jerusalem and this direction called as qibla which means direction of prayers. After conquering the Mecca, the qibla changed it direction to Kaaba. The first Muslims preferred to base their cult buildings on secular structures they rejected the form of pagan temples like the early Christians. First mosques took the place of the forum-basilica from Roman cities. Also, the first mosques had a simple architecture without apses, side chapels, ambulatories, crypts, baptisteries or choirs. In theory, any kind of architecture would suffice basic requirements and transformed to mosques. There is three most common plans for mosques: the basilica with longitudinal aisles directed to the qibla, transverse basilica with lateral exposure to the qibla wall and the isotropic hypostyle hall.

The ideology of jihad causes the Arab domination of Sassanian Persia and the southern Mediterranean. The architect Abu al-Haiyaj, structured the new city -Kufah- on a grid with two broad cross streets. Each of the four quadrants of Kufah contained an open plaza or maydan surrounded by orthogonally arranged streets.

The Umayyad Period: Jerusalem and Damascus,

The Umayyads settled in the Greco-Roman city of Damascus, Syria. They sponsored a brilliant urban culture based on the example of the Byzantines in Constantinople. Arabs like the other nomadic people, had limited knowledge about masonry architecture.  They learned forms and techniques from Persian, Roman and Byzantine. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the first great Umayyad monument was built up by a Byzantine architect and mosaic artists from Constantinople. It was constructed on an elevated terrace toward the center of the Temple Mount. The central-plan structure resembled a Christian martyrium. The passage that was surrounding the rock had two other characteristics which became common in Islamic architecture: pointed arches and ablaq that alternating bands of different-colored masonry. The dome roses as a double-shell structure over a cylindrical drum. Also, the Dome of the Rock’s central plan differed from Christian churches with the use of two concentric ambulatories. In order to attract non-Muslims, the monument was built as the most visible monument in city.


The Dome of the Rock

Abd al-Malik’s son al Walid I built three impressive mosques. The first entailed enlarging the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina. He added mosaics and the first mihrab to indicate the qibla to Mecca. The second, the al-Aqsa Mosque, maintained a congregational hypostyle hall   on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Al-Walid I’s third project was the Great Mosque of Damascus. Like the Dome of the Rock, the new mosque in Damascus reutilized the principal Greco-Roman temenos. The Great Mosque of Damascus was like Hagia Sophia. It had the idea of palace and mosque. On the corners of the southern wall of the temenos, guard towers served as muezzin’s call. Lately, these towers served as the first minarets and they became the most monumental element of later mosques. Even though, nothing left from the Umayyad palaces in Damascus, the ruins create an evidence of great magnificence.

The Abbasid Succession: New Capitals Baghdad and Samarra

The Umayyad dynasty enlarged the empire of Islam to its further extent, from Indus valley in the east to Spain and Morocco in the west. Abbasid dynasty took power from Umayyad with the Battle of Zab near Kufah. The capital of the Islam was changed through those dynasty. In time of Umayyad the capital was Harran and the second Abbasid caliph settled the capital Baghdad. Several generations later capital was changed Baghdad to Samarra. Here, the caliphs constructed several grand imperial palaces.

Like Kufah, early Baghdad had two major cross-axial streets; instead of being lined with arcades, they were covered by vaults. The outer ring of round Baghdad’s blocks contained hoses for the caliph’s family and noble people inner ring for military barracks and administration.

In Samarra, in order to complete the city, they built the largest mosque in the world, the Great Mosque of Samarra, in scale of Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The inner sahn of the mosque had arcades four columns deep. The hypostyle prayer hall stretched nine columns deep. Also, there was a spiral minaret evoking the ancient ziggurat. It served more as an icon than as an acoustic device.


The Great Mosque of Samarra

 In the first two centuries of Islamic design, they tried to design in a geometric order for cities, palaces and mosques but Arab Islamic cities developed through a dense snarl of covered markets and packed courtyard houses, sometimes interrupted by monumental religious complexes.

300-600AD|Early Christian Italy- Byzantium


Rome after Constantine: The Last Classical Buildings

After Constantine, Christianity started to increase in Rome and the power of the Church increased in the city. During the fifth century, the city came up with a series of churches and these early Christian basilicas made up the final piece of the traditional ancient roman architecture.

The Visigoths entered Italy at the end of the fifth century in order to destroy the unity of the Romans. Their aim was damaging the city’s pride more than its buildings. Even though the city was looted and torched by those invaders, the barbarian leader forbade the destruction of the mass slaughter and ordered that the churches be left unharmed.

There was another invasion in the mid-century and between those two sacks, Rome faced a brief recovery under papal leadership. Popes took the place of the emperors and became the prime source of patronage. They financed a lot of new churches like Santa Sabina, Santa Maria Maggiore and Santo Stefano Rotondo. Those churches built with a refined classical style as a statement of Rome’s surviving ability.

For a little information about those three churches, Santa Sabina’s exterior was simple and reminding the Constantine’s basilica at Trier. In the interior of the Santa Sabina remained the use of arches and Corinthian columns. Santa Maria Maggiore used Ionic capital columns. The flat coffered ceilings and geometric patterns in interior of the Santa Maria Maggiore looks like Basilica Ulpia in Trajan’s Forum. And the last but the most original of these Roman churches, Santo Stefano Rotondo wanted to be like an imperial mausoleum with a central domed space. The designers thought to install four planted courts in the residual spaces between chapels. This church fortunately unbuilt completely.  The central dome of the Santo Stefano never completed.

Santa Sabina and Santa Maria Maggiore

Because of some disasters and invasions, the popes lost their powers and they turned some of the great imperial monuments of the city. Rome’s great dome earned respect as a sacred Christian shrine while the rest of the city kept secular.

Milan on the Eve of the Gothic Advance

Milan another word in antiquity Mediolanum was known as “the land in the middle” Because it had the most important crossroads it replaced as the capital city of the western empire. This political change led to change a lot of imperial and religious projects. Constantine stated that Christianity is the official religion of the state, but pagan beliefs was continued.  Only in 356 there was decree about closure of the pagan temples.

Religious conflicts continued to discuss and one such division occurred with Arius who said that Jesus should not be worshipped as God but instead venerated as a prophet. The barbarians who had converted to Christianity tended to support the Arian thesis.

When the barbarians began to leak Italy as settlers, bishops dominated the Italian cities. St. Ambrose became Milan’s bishop and he created a mixture of secular and religious authority during late fourth century. The citizens chose him to be bishop even though he wasn’t baptized. He financed the construction of three large churches which were Sant’Ambrogio, the Basilica Apostolorum and San Simpliciano. He programmed these churches as martyrs’ cemetery churches.

 Sant’Ambrogio now stands as a three-aisle basilica with colonnaded atrium. San Simpliciano, had tall blind arches built in brick resemble to Constantine’s basilica in Trier but with the addition of a broad transept.  The one’s that opponents to Ambrose created the most impressive early Christian church which is now called as San Lorenzo. The church has a double-shell structure that supports a dome. Three mausoleum chapels extended from its outer walls in four directions while the west of the church opening to a rectangular atrium.




Constantinople: The First Christian Capital

Constantine installed Christianity as the main religion of the Roman Empire and he affected the major types for its cult buildings. During his long hegemony he set up capitals and palaces and helped for new churches wherever he settled. Constantinople which is new capital, he set up models for three church types which are still in use; the aisled basilica, the central-plan memorial church and the pavilion like baptistery.

Constantinople was settled as a tongue to the ancient Greco-Roman city of Byzantium. The dominant urban structure of this peninsula was the Mese which is a grand, colonnaded central boulevard. As urban plan, every half-kilometer or so, the thoroughfare opened a public space. The urban order ends up at the Milion and the Augusteon Forum lined with colonnades on all sides.  In terms of its scale and function this space looks like Forum of Julius Caesar in Rome. The Senate House and the Chalke, which is a bronze arch for entering the Great Palace, stood on the east side of the Augusteon Forum. Great Palace had had dining halls, basilica meeting chambers and series of domestic courtyards and it overlooked a stadium, the Hippodrome like the Domus Flavia in Rome. As a continuous of Roman building types Constantine used churches but unlike those in Rome churches, his churches were crucial points of the new city. Another difference was the use of upper galleries which is reserving for women.

Hagia Sophia took the northern flank of the Augusteon Forum and directly adjacent to the palace complex. Also, Constantine’s Hagia Sophia’s has common structural design wit Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Both were designed in the same years and the same designer team.


Holy Sepulchreayasofya muzesi

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia after Constantine

During the its first century, Constantinople grew into the largest city of the Mediterranean. Hagia Sophia destroyed by rioters in 404 and it happened again after its reconstruction. There are two works that were influential on Hagia Sophia. The first one is the church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus. The designers recommended a double-shell structure, the square outer walls enclosing an inner octagonal figure that supported a shallow dome. SS. Sergius and Bacchus’ scale and design were quite different from Hagia Sophia, but it gave the idea of a domed central space nested inside a larger orthogonal figure. Also, the inner shape of the double shell did not help the stability of the structure.

The second one is Hagia Polyeuktos was also inspired Justinian which couldn’t survive till now. This church has a longitudinal basilica with massive square piers in the center supporting thick barrel-vault arches.

The rebuilt Hagia Sophia included a minimum of flammable materials with arches, vaults and a dome made of stone, bricks and lime. Reconstruction made by two designers that were better known as scientists rather than architects: Anthemius and Isıdorus. They designed the central dome with a shallow drum pierced with forty clerestory windows. Like the Pantheon in Rome these windows opened at the points where cracking could be witnessed.

Like most early churches Hagia Sophia had no real façade and it gave the first impression of a great swollen mass. During fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Ottomans the for slender minarets added to its corners.

Hagia Sophia’s profile cannot be reduced to a simple figure made of proportional elements. The dome, cupped shapes and buttresses create complex form. And this make Hagia Sophia different from Mesopotamian Ziggurat and Greek Temple which combination of architectural parts led to a coherent whole.sergius

SS. Sergius and Bacchus

Ravenna: The Byzantine Satellite in Italy

Ravenna which was a small city on the Adriatic coast set a safe distance from Rome and Milan obtained luster as the Byzantine power base. With churches, baptisteries and mausoleums it underwent an architectural remake as the empire’s capital city in the west. At the beginning of the fifth century, the city expanded beyond its canals, and in order to accommodate palaces, a circus and numerous churches is size tripled.

Galla Placidia who was a female patron made crucial interventions in Ravenna. She built the large three-aisle Basilica of St. John the Evangelist and the church of Santa Croce. Santa Croce’s cruciform shape provided one of the first obvious example of a church plan referring to Christian emblem. She also sponsored Ravenna’s new cathedral and baptistery in the first half of the fifth century. The basilica had five aisles like the Lateran and a baptistery to one side. Also, marbles and mosaics were used.

Theodoric who was a faithful barbarian general tried to take control of Italy. He imitated the Roman religious and funerary architecture style. He also planned a monumental tomb for himself like Constantine did. The Mausoleum of Theodoric settled about a kilometer beyond the northeast gate of the city and built in stone. The most remarkable feature of the mausoleum is its monolithic dome. Its roof evoked dolmens and megalithic domes still used by Gothic Royalty.


The Mausoleum of Theodoric

In 526 during the year of Theodoric’s death, they began to shape two great churches in Ravenna: Sant’Apollinare in Classe and San Vitale. The new churches settled far from Theodoric’s palace, literally keeping their distance from barbarian king. Sant’Apollinare in Classe built near Ravenna’s port, it was a three-aisle basilica and close to designed similar to Santa Sabina in Rome. San Vitale followed a central plan as a martyrium. The church’s octagonal double-shell structure was similar with SS. Sergio and Bacchus in Constantinople.

Sant’Apollinare  and San Vitale


Richard Ingersoll-Spiro Kostof, World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History, p.197-215

200BCE-300CE| Ancient Rome

Even though most ancient cultures produced only a few buildings as a representation of the high-quality architecture in terms of religious and political ideas, the Hellenistic idea in such cities like Pergamon or Alexandra built entire cities as total works of architecture. And the Roman Empire adopted that approach to urban architecture through hundreds of cities.

 The Romans conquered and absorbed different cultures, so their architecture urbanization was also affected by those absorption like structured on arches and vaults and articulated with marble columns. Architecture and urbanism became a vehicle of governance.

The city of Rome, considered itself as caput mundi which means “head of the world” and it commanded an international empire. They used architecture as a symbol of power of the empire. They took their models from some other Hellenistic cities and thy added them to a new architectural repertoire. Also, their architects produced a new type of city, in which public spaces in front page. Architects used arches, vaults and the new technology of construction and they overcame the irregularity of terrain.

During the first two centuries of Rome, they inspired from Etruscan culture. Etruscan architects brought them the technology of vaults and arched gateways. Romans imitated the Etruscan temple for their major cult. The Roman temples repeated the Etruscan architectural design.

In 501 BCE, the Roman republic changed with monarchy. With that change they designed a new space for political issues which is called as Forum. Forum was not like the Agora in the Greek culture, it was tightly enclosed by large columns.

Romans learned the orthogonal urban design from Greek. The city itself like other civilizations built up a grid system.  Roman planners built up the city a cross-axis streets if the topography allowed.


Pompeii Ruins

In Rome, public spaces were very significant. Roman cities like Pompeii always contained a forum, a temple and a basilica. Generally, the temple stood at one end of the oblong space and a basilica. With the help of the considerable geographic distance between temples, we can understand that Roman architects used standard models that based on a modular proportional system.


Inside of a Basilica

Like other civilizations Romans produced temples and tombs and addition to them they also produced a disproportionate number of secular monuments such as theaters and baths. Contrast to Greek theaters, Romans built freestanding monuments using arches and vaults. The early Roman theaters mostly had a temple. The first theater is an example to that temple with theater issue. Also, the scene building was stood opposite the temple with three levels of columns. Moreover, the Romans developed a new form of theater which is amphitheater. Amphitheater occurred by adding two theater edge to edge.


Theater in Ancient Greek


Amphitheater in Ancient Rome

Roman baths or another word thermae were another public space that Romans gave attention. The rooms inside the thermae were equally grand and they reflected the Hellenistic prototypes. There were a spatial organization through that rooms such as dressing room that movement of people started and ending with round room. Also, hypocaust was an important structural element. Hypocaust went through under-floor and it was for heating the place with circulation of hot air.


Bathhouse of Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman houses -were also called as domus- tightly organized around colonnaded courts. The street façade had shops to either side of the entry. Front doors of the domus open t atrium which served for extended family. The typical domus’ court served as the feminine zone of the household and It surrounded by columns in a peristyle It also included kitchens, triclinium dining rooms, baths and privies. Suburban villas emerged in the second century BCE. They had the courts of domus type with gardens and landscape vistas.Insula or multilevel apartment block developed spontaneously with the help of shops that below the houses.




Richard Ingersoll-Spiro Kostof, World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History, p.148-163

700-200BCE|The Greek City-State

As a source of classicism in Western culture, ancient Greek took a special place in all. Classical architecture includes both a system of proportional composition and a decoration repertoire such as columns, entablatures and pediments. The polis which is the name of the Greek city forms this new style of architecture. The polis also produced a democratic process of rule which requires public debates. So, the need of a spaces that include dialogue creates the buildings of classical Athens. Such as the stoa, the senate house, and the hillside theater.

The Greek city-states positioned during the 6th century BCE at the western edge of the Southwest Asia. Because of their position, they developed a unique form of government. Also, rather than great palaces and tombs like the once I Egypt, Assyria and Persia, Greek architects prefer to build up open public spaces with a few colonnaded buildings for meetings. The Greek mainland and the islands that surround the mainland included like 700 city-states and those city-states even though they weren’t linked to each other, they shared the Greek language and religious beliefs with each other.

 Athens which was the most powerful city in the Aegean formed the most effective models of Greek architecture and urbanism. About the Acropolis, in the Greek thinking it means head of the city which was appropriate as a home for gods rather than the citizens. Agora, which is another important case in Greek, used as the prime public space of the Greek polis. Unlike the other cultures designs on temples and palaces -open spaces in front of them- the Greek agora sat as a void in the middle of the city. Agora sloped gently to the direction of the Acropolis. The organization of the Athens’ major streets crossed the Agora and also those streets had variety of activity such as market functions, religious ceremonies, athletic events and theatrical performances.



 On the southern slope of the Acropolis a stone theater was built up before its construction Agora was used as a theatrical area.

Increasing of the complexity of Athenian government, new functional buildings type was occurred. Administration buildings, Prytaneion (city hall), Skias (dining hall for the senate) – a cylindrical tholos structure-, Strategeion (chamber for debating military policies, Bouleuterion (theater-like structure)

Greek city-states had their own organization. The agora, the classical temple and the Greek theater indicated crucial urban ingredients for colonists that found new. Also, they added a normative grid to those essential parts. This grid system appeared in seventh century. In colonies, Greeks without any differences built their houses according to this grid idea. The houses -which were named as oikos- were one or two stories. They were also the smallest element of the grid system.

The Greek temple is one of the significant and one of the few architectural types that have universal recognition. There was a formula about the temples which could be vary according to city to city. I will write the exact words that Ingersoll used:

An oblong peripteral structure, girded on all sides by a screen of stone columns, ringed by a thick, horizontal entablature that sustains triangular pediments in the gables at each end.

Because the Greek temple has different relations with landscape and its dazzling colonnaded exterior it was different from other religious buildings.

The columns of the Greek temples have different types which are: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Doric order is carrying simple rounded capitals. Ionic order is thinner and there are some volutes on its capital. Those two orders generally used in the entrance of the temples. They are differentiating with each other in terms of their proportions and intercolumniation.  The Corinthian orders generally appeared in the inside of the temples. It has a carved capital with rows of acanthus leaves.



And lastly, the Greek architects found out some visual corrections of the temples’ perspective which is called as refinements. With the help of those corrections the temple seen as perfect appearance in any direction.  


An Example of Greek Temple


Richard Ingersoll-Spiro Kostof, World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History, p.117-128




1500-750BCE- Architecture and Memory| Biblical Jerusalem

Most of the history of ancient architecture depends on some guesses and interpretation about archeological artifacts or documents. It is because most of the urban artifacts faded away through destruction, natural disasters, natural calamities or so on and their memory also gone away with them. For example, Phoenicians who dominated the trade of Mediterranean from 1200 to 800 BCE only can be guessed because of the lack of surviving built evidence.

On the other hand, because of its religious history, Jerusalem succeed to survive, even though it lost the artifacts. The city itself represent an idea which is a sacred density for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Jerusalem couldn’t be a well-known city if the Jews people didn’t claim the city as their sacred center. Jerusalem settled first by the Canaanites around 1800 BCE. The city faces as both the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth and one of the least stable, despite the destroying the city a few times. Jerusalem settled a hill like Hattusa. To one side it sees the desert forming and the other side is valley. Despite of the enough water, Jerusalem has no access to any water source, so the city never develops in trade and industry.

Jerusalem became the focus of Jewish culture around the year 3000 BCE. It is because Abraham convinced his people to leave Ur when the drought began and the attack on Jews forced them to choose Jerusalem as the national capital.

Early Jerusalem was like Mycenae. Similar to Mycenean city organization, the elite lived within the walls and other citizens lived in the peripheral villages. There was a tunnel which was dug under the walls from city to an outside source of water just as Hittite and Mycenae.  And the people were seminomadic so that they couldn’t develop in terms of masonry architecture, city building and city administration.

Before Jerusalem, according to Jewish culture temple next to a royal palace represents suspicious acts, so in that time the temples were mobile sanctuary as Ark of the covenant. David the King changed the dwelling place of Yahweh portable to stable. Solomon who was the son of David built the ‘Solomon Temple’ which is also known as ‘The First Temple.’ It included an immense complex palace and grand hypostyle halls and separated harem. Only priest could enter the inner court while people could enter only outer court. The temple was destroyed by Neo – Babylonians in 586 BCE. Even though there are some objections about the God can be honored without those building, the Second Temple was built in 535 BCE when the Jews returned to Jerusalem by the permission of the Persians.

Reference: Richard Ingersoll-Spiro Kostof, World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History, p. 98-103