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Architecture

Architecture

Architecture - the art of building
in which human requirements and construction materials are related so as to
furnish practical use as well as an aesthetic solution, thus differing from the
pure utility of engineering construction. As an art, architecture is
essentially abstract and nonrepresentational and involves the manipulation of
the relationships of spaces, volumes, planes, masses, and voids. Time is also
an important factor in architecture, since a building is usually comprehended
in a succession of experiences rather than all at once. In most architecture there
is no one vantage point from which the whole structure can be understood. The
use of light and shadow, as well as surface decoration, can greatly enhance a
structure.

The analysis of building types
provides an insight into past cultures and eras. Behind each of the greater
styles lies not a casual trend nor a vogue, but a period of serious and urgent
experimentation directed toward answering the needs of a specific way of life.
Climate, methods of labor, available materials, and economy of means all impose
their dictates. Each of the greater styles has been aided by the discovery of
new construction methods. Once developed, a method survives tenaciously, giving
way only when social changes or new building techniques have reduced it. That
evolutionary process is exemplified by the history of modern architecture,
which developed from the first uses of structural iron and steel in the
mid-19th cent.

Until the 20th cent. there were
three great developments in architectural construction—the post-and-lintel, or
trabeated, system; the arch system, either the cohesive type, employing plastic
materials hardening into a homogeneous mass, or the thrust type, in which the
loads are received and counterbalanced at definite points; and the modern
steel-skeleton system. In the 20th cent. new forms of building have been
devised, with the use of reinforced concrete and the development of geodesic
and stressed-skin (light material, reinforced) structures.

See also articles under countries,
e.g., American architecture ; styles, e.g., baroque ; periods, e.g., Gothic
architecture and art ; individual architects, e.g., Andrea Palladio ;
individual stylistic and structural elements, e.g., tracery , orientation ;
specific building types, e.g., pagoda , apartment house .

Architecture of the Ancient World

In Egyptian architecture, to which
belong some of the earliest extant structures to be called architecture
(erected by the Egyptians before 3000 BC), the post-and-lintel system was
employed exclusively and produced the earliest stone columnar buildings in
history. The architecture of W Asia from the same era employed the same system;
however, arched construction was also known and used. The Chaldaeans and
Assyrians, dependent upon clay as their chief material, built vaulted roofs of
damp mud bricks that adhered to form a solid shell.

After generations of experimentation
with buildings of limited variety the Greeks gave to the simple post-and-lintel
system the purest, most perfect expression it was to attain (see Parthenon ;
orders of architecture ). Roman architecture, borrowing and combining the
columns of Greece and the arches of Asia, produced a wide variety of monumental
buildings throughout the Western world. Their momentous invention of concrete
enabled the imperial builders to exploit successfully the vault construction of
W Asia and to cover vast unbroken floor spaces with great vaults and domes , as
in the rebuilt Pantheon (2d cent. AD; see under pantheon ).

The Evolution of Styles in the
Christian Era

The Romans and the early Christians
also used the wooden truss for roofing the wide spans of their basilica halls.
Neither Greek, Chinese, nor Japanese architecture used the vault system of
construction. However, in the Asian division of the Roman Empire, vault
development continued; Byzantine architects experimented with new principles
and developed the pendentive , used brilliantly in the 6th cent. for the Church
of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The Romanesque architecture of the
early Middle Ages was notable for strong, simple, massive forms and vaults
executed in cut stone. In Lombard Romanesque (11th cent.) the Byzantine
concentration of vault thrusts was improved by the device of ribs and of piers
to support them. The idea of an organic supporting and buttressing skeleton of
masonry (see buttress ), here appearing in embryo, became the vitalizing aim of
the medieval builders. In 13th-century Gothic architecture it emerged in
perfected form, as in the Amiens and Chartres cathedrals.

The birth of Renaissance
architecture (15th cent.) inaugurated a period of several hundred years in
Western architecture during which the multiple and complex buildings of the
modern world began to emerge, while at the same time no new and compelling
structural conceptions appeared. The forms and ornaments of Roman antiquity
were resuscitated again and again and were ordered into numberless new
combinations, and structure served chiefly as a convenient tool for attaining
these effects. The complex, highly decorated baroque style was the chief manifestation
of the 17th-century architectural aesthetic. The Georgian style was among
architecture's notable 18th-century expressions (see Georgian architecture ).
The first half of the 19th cent. was given over to the classic revival and the
Gothic revival .

New World, New Architectures

The architects of the later 19th
cent. found themselves in a world being reshaped by science, industry, and
speed. A new eclecticism arose, such as the architecture based on the Ecole des
Beaux-Arts , and what is commonly called Victorian architecture in Britain and
the United States. The needs of a new society pressed them, while steel,
reinforced concrete, and electricity were among the many new technical means at
their disposal.

After more than a half-century of
assimilation and experimentation, modern architecture , often called the
International style , produced an astonishing variety of daring and original
buildings, often steel substructures sheathed in glass. The Bauhaus was a
strong influence on modern architecture. As the line between architecture and
engineering became a shadow, 20th-century architecture often approached
engineering, and modern works of engineering—airplane hangars, for
example—often aimed at and achieved an undeniable beauty. More recently, postmodern
architecture (see postmodernism ), which exploits and expands the technical
innovations of modernism while often incorporating stylistic elements from
other architectural styles or periods, has become an international movement.
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