Think of architecture today and you picture glass towers reaching into the sky, crisp white-walled modern villas and oddly shaped public buildings formed with the help of complex computer software systems. However, all of this modernity has its origins in architectural truths that can be traced back thousands of years and essentially remain as valid today as at the dawn of the world’s great civilisations. Architecture is the science of designing and constructing edifices, yet on a wider scale it is the tale of civilisations and how they have used design to express their wealth, power, technological know-how and aesthetic values. In other words, architecture is a window into the mindset of every nation and generation that ever created great works to house, play, pray and work in.
Where it all began
From the available information the earliest form of architecture in the true sense of the word dates from Sumeria, in modern-day Iraq, where stone and brick structures marked the earliest towns and the rise of state-based civilisations. From here the phenomenon spread to Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, Egypt and Hitta before reaching European shores with the flowering of ancient Greece. Building upon earlier knowledge that evolved in the Near East, the Greeks developed a style of building that was not only strongly codified, technologically advanced and impressive in scale and ambition, but also downright beautiful. Many of these early achievements of mankind still stand as a proud reminder in the form of palaces, temples, amphitheatres and public buildings. They include the likes of the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the theatre and Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and the stadium at Epidauros, to name a few. These ancient marvels draw millions of visitors to Athens and areas across modern-day Greece, southern Italy and western Turkey, where Hellenic culture spread many of the ground rules for architecture that persist to this day. Structure and decoration, form and function, were all clearly defined, the physics required to keep huge structures upright encoded and passed on, while richly detailed stylistic schools such as the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders have extended their influence far beyond that period, almost 2,500 years ago, when Greek architecture flourished. Rome borrowed from Greece and the Renaissance saw the reawakening of that classical know-how, reviving science and design as it spurred on a new dawn of architecture and creativity that has led straight from 15th century Tuscany via the French Neoclassical revival of the 19th century to our times. Many of the materials and styles have changed, but we still apply most of the Golden Rules of architecture set out 3,000 years ago, so whenever you see such features as rows of columns, arches, colonnaded covered walkways surrounding an open interior patio or simply the captivating strength of a perspective view, think of how these features link us straight back to the very dawn of architecture and technology.