Home - Main MenuThe history of Architecture & Music

 The Architecture of Ancient Egypt
A Pyramid and the Sphinx from Ancient Egyptian civilization
The architecture of ancient Egypt is mostly known for the tombs and temples, built for the kings and gods of that civilization. The pyramids are the best known of the Egyptian tombs. Destined for the use of the dead kings after resurrection, they are huge and it is almost unbelievable that such an ancient civilization, lacking any modern technology, could actually build such astounding structures. They symbolize the rays of the sun and are full of writing, based on small pictures, known as the hieroglyphics.
The Greeks and the Romans later adopted some of the Egyptians architectural forms, such as the columns and capitals (the column tops).

 The Architecture of Ancient Greece
The parthenon in Athens, Greece
The ancient Greek temples were built in certain forms and proportions that were meant to be pleasing to the gods. The three architectural styles that were mainly in use are the Doric, with it's rectangle abacus, The Ionic, with the spiral scrolls and the Corinthian, identified by capitals with the shape of Acanthus leaf. The last will be adopted by the Romans.

Ionic column

 The Architecture of Ancient Rome
The colosseum in Rome, ItalyAt first, the Romans made extensive use of the Greek architectural characteristics, but from the first century AD, they concentrated on the interiors of buildings, in contrast to the Greeks emphasis on the exterior. By using arches, domes and decorative columns inside buildings and decorating the internal walls, Roman architecture remained influential for many centuries.
Roman Architecture was calm, just like the Gregorian chant. Semi-circular arches, leaning against giant-size cylindrical columns in the spirit of Romanesque style. Small, dark spaces, and small windows. The Gregorian chant is serene, too, and emphasizes the religious relaxation and believer's acceptance of his or her being completely in the hands of the All-Mighty.

 The Architecture of the Middle Ages - Romanesque
Typical tower from the Middle AgesMany churches were built in Europe during the Middle Ages, with high and solid stone vaults supported by massive piers and columns. The Romanesque architecture adopted, in the 10th century, many early Christian and Roman ideas, such as cross-shaped ground plans.
Many kinds of constructions were built, including castles with rectangular keeps, and houses with pitched roofs, like the medieval London bridge.

 The Gothic Architecture of the Middle Ages
The Notre Dame Cathedral in ParisThe Gothic buildings with the ribbed vaults, stained-glass windows and pointed arches, became popular in the 12th century (see the Notre Dame de Paris) in France and later in all Europe. Gothic designers included ballflowers' embellishments and other decorated elements in the English decorative style of the 14th century. The English perpendicular style of the 15th century tended to use the hammer-beam roof and emphasized the horizontal and vertical elements in their structures.
The new construction techniques of the Gothic style, such as the pointed arch, and the supporting "flying buttresses", both enabled taller, more impressive constructions to be built. In this style, space is symmetrical and more complex than it used to be, underlining order and rhythm, just like in the complicated, rhythmical, polyphonic music composed during this era, as is particularly manifested in the organum.
The church of Notre Dame de Paris - home of the first school of polyphonic composition

The Architecture of the Renaissance
Originated in Italy, the Renaissance in architecture was marked by a return to the proportions of ancient Roman buildings and the return to the classical forms. Renaissance architects were interested in returning to the simplicity of the Roman and Greek styles. They adopted the symmetry and the total harmony of the ancient design as a reaction to the Gothic over-embellished style. Later architects distorted the classical forms in a style called Mannerism.

The Renaissance, having revived Roman styles and adapted them to up-date construction techniques, also found its expression in music, giving birth to harmony, restoring manís place in the center of things (folk singers called troubadours performed all over Europe, choirs and unaccompanied singers perform art music, and music becomes an independent art).

The Architecture of the Baroque
St. Paul Cathedral in London by WrenThe Baroque architecture evolved in Rome and later spread to Germany and Spain, where it is characterized by ostentatious decoration and curved outlines. In other countries, it was adopted with adaptations. In England, architects such as Wren used baroque features with great restraint.
Baroque architecture, using plane lines with elaborated ornaments, for the purpose of building giant churches and extravagant palaces, reminds one of the magnificence of Baroque polyphony, well demostrated in the work of J.S. Bach, taking simple tunes, making them into astonishingly elaborated, complex polyphonic pieces.

 The Architecture of the Rococo and Classical period
The pre-classical Rococo, a French early 18th century lavish form, was a reaction to the seriousness, rigidity, and formalism of the Baroque.
A counterpart to this movement in architecture can be found in the Rococo music, with its refined ornamentation, and in the light and elegant Galant music, with its pleasing tunefulness and prettiness. These styles replaced the Baroque's serious polyphony with a melody and harmony and heavy ornamentation.

The Madeleine churchOn the other side came Neoclassicism which developed in Northern Europe during the 17th century. Slightly ahead of its time, it was a reaction to the Baroque's excess. The Madeleine Church in Paris is a good example of this restrained design.
Just like the buildings of that period, Classical music is characterized by a structural clarity. With their clearly articulated forms, contrasting themes and changing moods in very close succession, Classical pieces are built as temples of enlightenment.

 The Architecture of the 19th century
The Tower Bridge in LondonIn the 19th century, new materials such as steel and iron became alternatives to wood (for the frames of buildings) and the diversity of styles became unprecedented, from the industrialized iron buildings to the Neo-Greek, Neo-Gothic (as in the Tower Bridge in London) and other forms of architecture, which tried to revive forms of the past civilizations.

The musical equivalent for the 19th century neo-trends lies with the neo-classicist composers such as Brahms and Schumann, who incorporated elements from the distant and near past in their work, and opposed the impulsiveness and over-emotionality of Romantic art.

 The Architecture of the 20th century
Sky Line in New York City, USAThe new buildings made of steel-and-glass became very popular in the 20th century and these materials allowed architects to design the modern skyscrapers. Since the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931, with its 102 storeys, many skyscrapers have been built all over the world, achieving world records in their heights.
Many other architectural styles were developed in the 20th century, but just like the music and art of the modern period, and in contrast to the styles of the 19th century, they were all new and original styles with almost no links to the past. Most architects tried to break the rules, use new materials and offer completely new solutions to old needs.
The Bauhaus, a school of architecture and design, founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter gropius and became central in all Europe. This style fostered the idea of the artist as craftsman. Bauhaus artists believed in a close study of the nature of materials and a strict economy of means. The style was geometric, severe and impersonal.
The emigration of Bauhaus architects and artists caused by Nazism ensured the international spread of Bauhaus ideas to one of the main trends in the modern architecture, from the 1950s and until today - the functionalism. This school argues that the design of a building has to reflect its function. Many such buildings were built for banks, big firms etc.

At the same time, German composers, such as Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill represented the call for "Gebrauchsmusik" - a functional music. They believed in composing for the sake of society and serving its needs.

Towards the end of the century, other architects rejected functionalism for the post-modernism school, which revived historical styles with new materials and techniques.

Just as the world of music, that has undergone severe twists and turns such as atonality, minimalism, Dodecaphonic music, aleatory music and electronic music, the prevailing trend in 20th century architecture is one of great diversity in building styles, new methods and materials, a total disintegration of values that has dominated for centuries and millenniums, and on the other hand, attempts to restore the very same values in some kind of a new form, with cautious clinging to the magic of the past.

The Opera House in Sydney, Australia

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MusixCool© By Nadav Dafni