ClassicalGreek Orders: Timeless Ancient Greek Architecture Past and Present IntroductionIntoday’s modern world, there are many heavy influences of Greek architecture. Takea look at buildings and monuments today, and you will see many designsreflected from ancient Greek landmarks. These once traditional structures arenow contemporary designs of the world today.
Withinarchitecture itself, three important systems have maintained their place withinhistory, and they are still valid today. Regardless of the designs the ancientGreeks have created in the past, we can see that their influence onarchitecture is still relevant today. These are the three classical orders ofarchitecture: The Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Vitruvius, the Greekeducated Roman architect reflects that the Doric is considered male, the Ionicis considered female and the Corinthian is neither. Any town visited in thewestern world will display its fair quota of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian stylebuildings Some of the most famous modern building structures in the world, suchas the Pantheon in Paris and the capital building in Washington DC are heavilyinfluenced in design by these three orders, even though they have no connectionwith classical civilization.
Althoughancient Greek architecture is known for its 3 orders, the third order, theCorinthian, is much less used within Greek architecture style buildings inGreece. The Corinthian order is more popular in Roman architecture. All 3orders are prominent in today’s world. Tothe amateur viewer, all three orders may look the same in terms of design andcharacteristics. However, on closer inspection and thorough research, it isobvious that the three orders do in actual fact have their own distinct style.The first and the oldest order existing today is the Doric, and it is the most famousstyle used in the modern world today.
The Acropolis and Parthenon are two ofthe most famous Doric style buildings in Ancient Greek architecture, and theirstructures can be seen in one of today’s contemporary buildings, the Whitehousein the USA. The Oslo building in Norway is another example of Doric stylearchitecture. In a nutshell, the columns are pillars, and these pillars areused today in many other public buildings. When referencing ancient Greekarchitecture, The Parthenon, a grand building with huge pillars, is found inAthens.Greekarchitecture references the Greek speaking people of the Greek mainland, thePeloponnese and the islands of the Aegean Sea.
The ancient style of architecturedates back to 900BC, going right up to the first century AD. It is, therefore,astounding that such an old style forms a major part of the modern structuresin our time.Thesimplicity, proportion, perspective and harmony within ancient Greek buildingsgreatly influenced Roman architects. So great was the effect, it gave birth totwo more orders created by the Romans, the Tuscan order and the Composite order.Classical architecture was now complete with its five orders.Greekarchitecture is a representation of order, beauty and democracy.
Since theGreek style has lasted through thousands of years, its architecture gives thesuggestion that it is ageless. It is these characteristics and qualities thatleave an impression of awe and appreciation, as well as being a source ofinspiration, through its huge columns, fine craftsman and timeless beauty.Thisreport will discuss two of the most widely copied and most famous orders inancient Greek architecture, the Doric and Ionic. The third order Corinthian,was widely used in Roman architecture, and will not be discussed in detail inthis report.Thisessay will address the design and structure of ancient Greek Doric and Ionicbuildings and their modern day counterparts, as well as looking at types ofmaterials used to build the magnificent structures of the past and the present.The report will look at the connection of these ancient Greek structure and thedivinities that were honoured with their construction. ReportTheoldest, simplest and biggest of the three Greek orders is the Doric.
This orderwas developed by the archaic Greek civilization, and it was the most popular ofthe three Greek orders. By the 7th century, the Doric was a verywell established order, found by Dorus. With the construction of the Parthenonin 438BC, the Doric order had reached its full potential by creating perhapsthe most elaborate, extremely beautiful and impressive structure of the time.Vitruvius,the Greek educated Roman architect, declared that this order was in factmuscular in character, comparing its fundamental proportion, a column shaft sixtimes its diameter, to the proportion, strength and beauty of man’s body.Vitruvius also stated that the Doric was more suited to temples dedicated tomasculine gods such as Hercules, who was the ultimate He-Man, the greatest andmost powerful paragon of masculinity.
The other orders, the Ionic, was morefeminine in style, whereas the Corinthian, was in between the styles of theother two orders.TheDoric order was a sophisticated architectural style that set the standards forbeauty, harmony and strength that is found in European architecture in today’smodern world. Being one of the simplest orders style wise, it is recognisableby its two main features, the columns and the entablature (the structure thatrests on top of the columns). The columns are all different in all of the threeorders, and the purpose of these columns was to support the ceiling.
The Doriccolumns are simple and tapered, wider at the bottom and narrowing towards thetop. Columns in the Doric orders did not have a base, they rested directly ontothe pavement of the structure (in this case the temples). The wide flat sectionon top of column is called the capital, and it is this which directly supportsthe ceiling weight. They are smooth and undecorated, and are flared in design,meaning the top is wider than the base. Hence the simplicity of this order.
Oneof the most well-known ancient Greek Doric structures is the temple ofParthenon in Athens, dedicated to the Goddess Athena. This temple alsocontained features of the Ionic order. Although mentioned earlier that mostlythe Doric order was considered masculine, this famous structure is in actualfact dedicated to a female goddess. This construction is the most importantsurviving building of classical Greek architecture, and is considered an enduringsymbol of ancient Greece, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments,architecturally as well as artistically.
Its perfect proportions, harmonious connections,intricate architectural details and style has influenced architecture manycenturies after it was built.The Parthenon – part of theAcropolis in AthensTheParthenon is comparable to modern day architecture in the form of the LincolnMemorial in Washington DC, found in the United States of America. This wasconstructed to honour the 16th president of the United State ofAmerica, Abraham Lincoln. The designer of the Lincoln Memorial Henry Baconenjoyed Greek architecture, and decided to base this impressive structure onthe Parthenon. There is a similar representation between the two structures;one was the birth place of democracy, the other fought for it with tremendouscourage and determination. Looking closely at the Lincoln Memorial, one can seethat there are almost exact similar features to the Parthenon. The columnsfollow exact to those of the Parthenon in Doric orders.
It is the feature whichgives the memorial its Majestics temple-like appearance. When approaching it,one is almost in awe of its beauty.The Lincoln Memorial,Washington DC, USABaconfelt the Parthenon, a symbol of where democracy was born, was a fitting designfor a memorial to a man who defended democracy.
The final design of the LincolnMemorial featured 36 columns which represented the 36 united states at the timeof Lincoln’s death.Themost noticeable characteristics between the Parthenon and Lincoln memorial arethe columns and the use of marble. The interiors of both of these structuresare also very similar.
Both are divided into chambers, and the statue to whomthe structures are dedicated to form the focal point. So similar are these twomagnificent buildings, their functions are also almost identical: The Parthenonwas built to honour the Greek Goddess Athena, and Lincoln Memorial is a symbolof the people honouring their leader, President Abraham Lincoln.TheGoddess Athena, and Abraham Lincoln, both have similarities in the sense thatwhere Athena was the protector of the city state named after her, Lincoln wasalso considered as a protector, a fighter for his people and for democracy. Wherethe Parthenon was built to worship the Greek goddess Athena, and show off thewealth and power of Athens, the Lincoln memorial was built to honour the 16thpresident of the United States and draw a parallel between governments: “whatbetter way existed to remember a man who struggled to defend democracy, than toa model his tribute after one found in the birth place of democracy?” (NationalPark Service).Lookingat both the structures, it is easy to see that although they were built on theform of a Greek temple, the Lincoln Memorial has differences from the originalDoric order found in the Parthenon. One noticeable difference is that on top ofthe Lincoln Memorial the prism is rectangular, rather than the triangular oneseen in the Parthenon.
Another difference is that of the stairs: The Lincoln Memorialhas a large entrance and wider, magnificent staircase in comparison to theParthenon.SomeIonic characteristics also feature in the Parthenon. This style of architectureoriginated from the Ionian Island, off the coast of Greece. The change from theDoric order to the Ionic order in the midst of construction of the Parthenon issaid to be due to Athens losing the Peloponnesian war to Sparta. Specialmaterials were sourced to build both structures. One common material used tobuild both the Parthenon and the Lincoln Memorial was marble. The Parthenon’smassive foundations were made of limestone, and its columns were built using approximately100,000 tonnes of Pentelic marble. This special marble was sought from thenearest Mt.
Pentelicus, and this stone was known for its pure white appearance– quite fitting for a deity that was known as virgin. The marble stone containstraces of iron, which, overtime, oxidised creating a honey colour on themarble. Inside each column section, leadwas used to cover the column. Iron clamps held the lead together to providemore stability. The lead prevented the iron from corroding and breaking themarble, therefore sustaining longevity. It also acted as a cushion between eachsection to absorb shocks from any earthquakes that occurred.
ColoradoYule marble was used to build the Lincoln Memorial walls, entablature, alticfrieze, Doric columns and the upper steps. The tripods were built usingTennessee Pink Marble, whereas the lower steps and terrace walls were createdusing pink Milford and Massachusetts granite. This all forms the exterior ofthe memorial.Thewall and Ionic columns in the interior of the memorial were built using Indianalimestone. The statue and plinth were created from George white marble, and thepedestal and chamber floors were created using Tennessee Pink Marble.Theceiling panels were built from Alabama marble which was saturated in withmelted beeswax for translucency.
Whenconsidering the list of materials used to build the Lincoln memorial and thestates the materials came from, it is quite evident that materials were sourcedfrom different states around America. This characterises the coming together ofthe states to build such a memorial dedicated to the fighter for democracy.Abraham Lincoln was no less than a ‘Greek God’, who was ‘worshipped’ by hispeople.Thesecond order in Greek classical architecture is the Ionic order. A heavy columnsmall in height, with a plain capital above it made up the features of theDoric order. Columns in this particular order did not have a base.
Incomparison, the Ionic order column is slender in appearance, and much taller.The pillars are flute-like, supported by a large base at the bottom. On the topof the column are two volutes (scrolls) which are placed in the echinus of thecapital.Incomparison to the Doric style temple, known for its heavy, sombre and plain,unadorned appearance (found in the rocky areas of the Greek Mainland), theIonic temples were much lighter and more elegant in characteristics, and wereperceived to have a more ‘feminine’ appearance. The Ionic temples are believedto have taken influence from various eastern cultures.Oneof the greatest ancient Greek temples which is modelled using the Ionic orderis the Erechtheion, found on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens. Thistemple was built in dedication to both Athena and Poseidon. The name Erechtheionis derived from a shrine dedicated to the Greek hero Erechtheus.
There are manysuggestions that this temple may have been built to honour the King Erechtheus,who is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as a great king and ruler of Athens.The Erechtheion, part of theAcropolis in AthensOnesuch building in today’s world which is inspired by the columns of Erechtheionis the Old Senate Chamber, found in the United States Capital Building. Thiswhole building itself is full of Ionic characteristics. Eight Ionic columnssupport the chamber’s gallery, and these are made from variegated marble. Thistemple is one of the finest examples of Greek Ionic order.
The Goddess Athenais said to have caused an Olive tree to grow here when contesting Poseidon forthe honour. Poseidon conveyed his power by striking the Acropolis with histrident. The result of this was the sea water flowing out, and Poseidon was theGod of water. Athena also struck the ground in demonstration of her powers, andthe result of this was the growth of an olive tree. Olives being very importantto the Greeks, Athena won the contest and was honoured as the deity of thetemple.
Old Senate Chamber Gallery,US Capitol Building, Washington DC, USAMarblematerial was a common factor in the building of these huge structures. The Erechtheion,like the Parthenon, was built from Pentelic marble, sourced from nearby MountPentelicus. Like the Parthenon, the architects of the Erechtheion also wantedto give this structure a pure white appearance (again referring to purity andsacredness), and with traces of iron in the marble, a honey colour appeared onthe marble after the iron had oxidised over time.Inthe same way, the Old State Chamber compares with the Erechtheion in terms ofinspiration and the use of marble materials. This is just one of the manymaterials that ancient Greeks used to create their magnificent buildings.TheOld Senate Chamber is very richly decorated.
Designer Benjamin Henry Latrobeconstructed this chamber, alongside his successor, Charles Bulfinch. Thevisitor’s gallery within the chamber is supported by Ionic marble columns. Ionicarchitecture is very much visible all throughout the USA, mostly on manyWashington DC memorials and buildings. Limestone and a columns structure arekey to Greek architecture and these are still relevant today.
These are the impressive symbols and stylesof the Ancient Greek culture. Ionic buildings today such as the US TreasuryBuilding in Washington DC and the DAR Constitution Hall reflects the ancientGreek style of architecture. ConclusionBoththe Parthenon and the Erechtheion are found in the Acropolis, a collection oftemples, districts and other buildings. The Lincoln Memorial and the Old SenateChamber are both found in Washington DC, the government capital of the UnitedStates of America. They both contain elements of Doric and Ionic orders. Classicalarchitecture is rooted in antiquity.
Greek architecture represents order,beauty and democracy. There is a sense of agelessness, as Greek stylearchitecture is still very current in today’s world. Modern day structures suchas libraries, courthouses, museums, monuments, and government buildings allcontain huge elements of Greek architecture, mostly within Doric and Ionicorder influences. The style of architecture is unique and sophisticated.
Decorativeelements from the ancient world are what makes up a classical building. It iseasily recognisable, as the building is ‘wearing a uniform’, i.e. building witha similar style fall into the same categories, in this case the Doric andIonic.
The intention of classical architecture is to achieve harmony within itsparts, and this is demonstrated in buildings of the classical orders such asthe Parthenon and the Erechtheion, and the Lincoln Memorial and the Old SenateChamber in the US Capitol building. The common connection between the classicalorders is the entablature – the columns do not mean anything if they do nothave something to support them. The mainfeatures of all the columns were that they were upright. They began with a base(except the Doric), and continued with a shaft in between the base and the capitalabove it. This signifies the human body, the feet, the body and the head.Symmetry and unity of parts to the whole structure was of much importance asthis signified the democracy of Greece.
Dorictemples, ranging from the Parthenon and beyond, are decorated with images ofmurder, battle and sacrifice. Some of the best examples of battles are depictedon the Temple of Artmeis. Throughout Athens, there are numerous depictions ofwar within the temples such as the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike.Ionic temples are not far behind with their depictions of violence. Althoughconsidered feminine and graceful, the first Ionic temple was dedicated to theGoddess Artemis, known as the hunting goddess. It is believed that she could bebloodthirsty, and is known to have asked for human sacrifice. It is these characteristics which give theimpression that the Ionic order was far more violent (regardless of its graceand femininity) than the Doric.
Today’smodern world temple is high on Mount Vernon, in the United States of Americaand also well-known as President George Washington’s residence. An organisation of ‘priestesses’, the Mount VernonLadies Association are responsible for the administration of this ‘temple’, andkeep it a sacred shrine. Many Americans believe Mount Vernon is a sacredlegend, a house which is a place of worship.TheDoric style is attributed to Gods such as Hercules. The order representsmasculinity – simple, tall, muscular and powerful, like Hercules, who was alsoconsidered a divine hero.
Hercules is a common representation in Greekarchitecture. The Ionic order is attributed to the Goddess Hera. Ionic columns,as per Vitruvius, were considered as feminine – the slender columns representthe female body, and the scrolls convey a woman’s hair. Moderntimes were fascinated with Greek classical architecture. The 19thcentury building, for example, Northington Grange in Hampshire, England ismodelled on Greek Revival architecture.
The architect, William Wilkins,transformed this building into the style of an ancient Greek temple. The hugeDoric portico is based on the Theseion (the Temple of Hephaestus) in Athens. Theworld’s architecture will always be full of classical design, with a moderntwist thrown in. Ancient Greek architecture has a timeless beauty to it, it hassurvived through many a millennium, and will continue to do so. With theintroduction of new technology every day, one thing is certain, that thelanguage and design of classical architecture is here to stay.
BibliographyBooksTheClassical Language of Architecture – John SummersonTheDancing Column On Order in Architecture – Joseph RykwertTheLost Meaning of Architecture – George HerseyTheEarth The Temple and The Gods Greek Sacred Architecture – Vincent ScullyInternet ResearchKhanacademy.orgAncient.euCrystalinks.comGreeka.comAphelian-webzine.comStudy.comAncient-greece.orgNps.govReference.comAoc.govGreekgateway.comWikipedia