Neoclassical architecture

Neoclassical architecture


Neoclassical architecture is an architectural
style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form it is a style principally
derived from the architecture of Classical antiquity, the Vitruvian principles and the
architecture of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio. In form, Neoclassical architecture emphasizes
the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts. The style is manifested both in its details
as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural
formulae as an outgrowth of some classicising features of Late Baroque. Neoclassical architecture is still designed
today, but may be labelled New Classical Architecture for contemporary buildings. History
Intellectually, Neoclassicism was symptomatic of a desire to return to the perceived “purity”
of the arts of Rome, to the more vague perception of Ancient Greek arts and, to a lesser extent,
16th-century Renaissance Classicism, which was also a source for academic Late Baroque
architecture. Many early 19th-century neoclassical architects
were influenced by the drawings and projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicolas
Ledoux. The many graphite drawings of Boullée and
his students depict spare geometrical architecture that emulates the eternality of the universe. There are links between Boullée’s ideas and
Edmund Burke’s conception of the sublime. Ledoux addressed the concept of architectural
character, maintaining that a building should immediately communicate its function to the
viewer: taken literally such ideas give rise to “architecture parlante”. Palladianism A return to more classical architectural forms
as a reaction to the Rococo style can be detected in some European architecture of the earlier
18th century, most vividly represented in the Palladian architecture of Georgian Britain
and Ireland. The baroque style had never truly been to
the English taste. Four influential books were published in the
first quarter of the 18th century which highlighted the simplicity and purity of classical architecture:
Vitruvius Britannicus, Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, De Re Aedificatoria and The
Designs of Inigo Jones… with Some Additional Designs. The most popular was the four-volume Vitruvius
Britannicus by Colen Campbell. The book contained architectural prints of
famous British buildings that had been inspired by the great architects from Vitruvius to
Palladio. At first the book mainly featured the work
of Inigo Jones, but the later tomes contained drawings and plans by Campbell and other 18th-century
architects. Palladian architecture became well established
in 18th-century Britain. At the forefront of the new school of design
was the aristocratic “architect earl”, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington; in 1729, he
and William Kent, designed Chiswick House. This House was a reinterpretation of Palladio’s
Villa Capra, but purified of 16th century elements and ornament. This severe lack of ornamentation was to be
a feature of the Palladianism. In 1734 William Kent and Lord Burlington designed
one of England’s finest examples of Palladian architecture with Holkham Hall in Norfolk. The main block of this house followed Palladio’s
dictates quite closely, but Palladio’s low, often detached, wings of farm buildings were
elevated in significance. This classicizing vein was also detectable,
to a lesser degree, in the Late Baroque architecture in Paris, such as in Perrault’s east range
of the Louvre. This shift was even visible in Rome at the
redesigned facade for S. Giovanni in Laterano. Neoclassicism By the mid 18th century, the movement broadened
to incorporate a greater range of Classical influences, including those from Ancient Greece. The shift to neoclassical architecture is
conventionally dated to the 1750s. It first gained influence in England and France;
in England, Sir William Hamilton’s excavations at Pompeii and other sites, the influence
of the Grand Tour and the work of William Chambers and Robert Adam, was pivotal in this
regard. In France, the movement was propelled by a
generation of French art students trained in Rome, and was influenced by the writings
of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. The style was also adopted by progressive
circles in other countries such as Sweden and Russia. International neoclassical architecture was
exemplified in Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s buildings, especially the Old Museum in Berlin, Sir John
Soane’s Bank of England in London and the newly built White House and Capitol in Washington,
DC of the nascent American Republic. The style was international. A second neoclassic wave, more severe, more
studied and more consciously archaeological, is associated with the height of the Napoleonic
Empire. In France, the first phase of neoclassicism
was expressed in the “Louis XVI style”, and the second in the styles called “Directoire”
or Empire. The Rococo style remained popular in Italy
until the Napoleonic regimes brought the new archaeological classicism, which was embraced
as a political statement by young, progressive, urban Italians with republican leanings. In the decorative arts, neoclassicism is exemplified
in French furniture of the Empire style; the English furniture of Chippendale, George Hepplewhite
and Robert Adam, Wedgwood’s bas reliefs and “black basaltes” vases, and the Biedermeier
furniture of Austria. The Scottish architect Charles Cameron created
palatial Italianate interiors for the German-born Catherine II the Great in St. Petersburg. Interior design Indoors, neoclassicism made a discovery of
the genuine classic interior, inspired by the rediscoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum. These had begun in the late 1740s, but only
achieved a wide audience in the 1760s, with the first luxurious volumes of tightly controlled
distribution of Le Antichità di Ercolano. The antiquities of Herculaneum showed that
even the most classicizing interiors of the Baroque, or the most “Roman” rooms of William
Kent were based on basilica and temple exterior architecture turned outside in, hence their
often bombastic appearance to modern eyes: pedimented window frames turned into gilded
mirrors, fireplaces topped with temple fronts. The new interiors sought to recreate an authentically
Roman and genuinely interior vocabulary. Techniques employed in the style included
flatter, lighter motifs, sculpted in low frieze-like relief or painted in monotones en camaïeu,
isolated medallions or vases or busts or bucrania or other motifs, suspended on swags of laurel
or ribbon, with slender arabesques against backgrounds, perhaps, of “Pompeiian red” or
pale tints, or stone colors. The style in France was initially a Parisian
style, the Goût grec, not a court style; when Louis XVI acceded to the throne in 1774,
Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, brought the “Louis XVI” style to court. However there was no real attempt to employ
the basic forms of Roman furniture until around the turn of the century, and furniture-makers
were more likely to borrow from ancient architecture, just as silversmiths were more likely to take
from ancient pottery and stone-carving than metalwork: “Designers and craftsmen … seem
to have taken an almost perverse pleasure in transferring motifs from one medium to
another”. A new phase in neoclassical design was inaugurated
by Robert and James Adam, who travelled in Italy and Dalmatia in the 1750s, observing
the ruins of the classical world. On their return to Britain, they published
a book entitled The Works in Architecture in installments between 1773 and 1779. This book of engraved designs made the Adam
repertory available throughout Europe. The Adam brothers aimed to simplify the rococo
and baroque styles which had been fashionable in the preceding decades, to bring what they
felt to be a lighter and more elegant feel to Georgian houses. The Works in Architecture illustrated the
main buildings the Adam brothers had worked on and crucially documented the interiors,
furniture and fittings, designed by the Adams. Greek revival
From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the medium of etchings
and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism, the Greek Revival. There was little to no direct knowledge of
Greek civilization before the middle of the 18th century in Western Europe, when an expedition
funded by the Society of Dilettanti in 1751 and led by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett
began serious archaeological enquiry. Stuart was commissioned after his return from
Greece by George Lyttelton to produce the first Greek building in England, the garden
temple at Hagley Hall. A number of British architects in the second
half of the century took up the expressive challenge of the Doric from their aristocratic
patrons, including Joseph Bonomi and John Soane, but it was to remain the private enthusiasm
of connoisseurs up to the first decade of the 19th century. Seen in its wider social context, Greek Revival
architecture sounded a new note of sobriety and restraint in public buildings in Britain
around 1800 as an assertion of nationalism attendant on the Act of Union, the Napoleonic
Wars, and the clamour for political reform. It was to be William Wilkins’s winning design
for the public competition for Downing College, Cambridge that announced the Greek style was
to be the dominant idiom in architecture. Wilkins and Robert Smirke went on to build
some of the most important buildings of the era, including the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden,
the General Post Office and the British Museum, Wilkins University College London and the
National Gallery. At the same time the Empire style in France
was a more grandiose wave of neoclassicism in architecture and the decorative arts. Mainly based on Imperial Roman styles, it
originated in, and took its name from, the rule of Napoleon I in the First French Empire,
where it was intended to idealize Napoleon’s leadership and the French state. The style corresponds to the more bourgeois
Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Federal style in the United States, the Regency
style in Britain, and the Napoleonstil in Sweden. According to the art historian Hugh Honour
“so far from being, as is sometimes supposed, the culmination of the Neo-classical movement,
the Empire marks its rapid decline and transformation back once more into a mere antique revival,
drained of all the high-minded ideas and force of conviction that had inspired its masterpieces”. Neoclassicism continued to be a major force
in academic art through the 19th century and beyond—a constant antithesis to Romanticism
or Gothic revivals— although from the late 19th century on it had often been considered
anti-modern, or even reactionary, in influential critical circles. The centres of several European cities, notably
St Petersburg and Munich, came to look much like museums of Neoclassical architecture. Characteristics High neoclassicism was an international movement. Though neoclassical architecture employed
the same classical vocabulary as Late Baroque architecture, it tended to emphasize its planar
qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects
of light and shade were more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs were flatter and tended to be
enframed in friezes, tablets or panels. Its clearly articulated individual features
were isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves. Neoclassicism also influenced city planning;
the ancient Romans had used a consolidated scheme for city planning for both defense
and civil convenience, however, the roots of this scheme go back to even older civilizations. At its most basic, the grid system of streets,
a central forum with city services, two main slightly wider boulevards, and the occasional
diagonal street were characteristic of the very logical and orderly Roman design. Ancient facades and building layouts were
oriented to these city design patterns and they tended to work in proportion with the
importance of public buildings. Many of these urban planning patterns found
their way into the first modern planned cities of the 18th century. Exceptional examples include Karlsruhe and
Washington DC. Not all planned cities and planned neighborhoods
are designed on neoclassical principles, however. Opposing models may be found in Modernist
designs exemplified by Brasilia, the Garden city movement, levittowns, and new urbanism. Regional trends
Britain From the middle of the 18th century, exploration
and publication changed the course of British architecture towards a purer vision of the
Ancient Greco-Roman ideal. James ‘Athenian’ Stuart’s work The Antiquities
of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece was very influential in this regard, as were Robert
Wood’s Palmyra and Baalbec. A combination of simple forms and high levels
of enrichment was adopted by the majority of contemporary British architects and designers. The revolution begun by Stuart was soon to
be eclipsed by the work of the Adam Brothers, James Wyatt, Sir William Chambers, George
Dance, James Gandon and provincially based architects such as John Carr and Thomas Harrison
of Chester. In the early 20th century, the writings of
Albert Richardson were responsible for a re-awakening of interest in pure neoclassical design. Vincent Harris, Bradshaw Gass & Hope and Percy
Thomas were among those who designed public buildings in the neoclassical style in the
interwar period. In the British Raj in India, Sir Edwin Lutyens’
monumental city planning for New Delhi marked the sunset of neoclassicism. In Scotland and the north of England, where
the Gothic Revival was less strong, architects continued to develop the neoclassical style
of William Henry Playfair. The works of Cuthbert Brodrick and Alexander
Thomson show that by the end of the 19th century the results could be powerful and eccentric. France
The first phase of neoclassicism in France is expressed in the “Louis XVI style” of architects
like Ange-Jacques Gabriel; the second phase, in the styles called Directoire and “Empire”,
might be characterized by Jean Chalgrin’s severe astylar Arc de Triomphe. In England the two phases might be characterized
first by the structures of Robert Adam, the second by those of Sir John Soane. The interior style in France was initially
a Parisian style, the “Goût grec” not a court style. Only when the young king acceded to the throne
in 1771 did Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, bring the “Louis XVI” style to court. From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural
examples, seen through the medium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism
that is called the Greek Revival. Although several European cities — notably
St Petersburg, Athens, Berlin and Munich — were transformed into veritable museums of Greek
revival architecture, the Greek revival in France was never popular with either the State
or the public. What little there was, started with Charles
de Wailly’s crypt in the church of St Leu-St Gilles, and Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s Barriere
des Bonshommes. First-hand evidence of Greek architecture
was of very little importance to the French, due to the influence of Marc-Antoine Laugier’s
doctrines that sought to discern the principles of the Greeks instead of their mere practices. It would take until Laboustre’s Neo-Grec of
the second Empire for the Greek revival to flower briefly in France. Spain Spanish Neoclassicism was exemplified by the
work of Juan de Villanueva, who adapted Burke’s theories of beauty and the sublime to the
requirements of Spanish climate and history. He built the Prado Museum, that combined three
functions — an academy, an auditorium and a museum — in one building with three separate
entrances. This was part of the ambitious program of
Charles III, who intended to make Madrid the Capital of the Arts and Sciences. Very close to the museum, Villanueva built
the Astronomical Observatory. He also designed several summer houses for
the kings in El Escorial and Aranjuez and reconstructed the Major Square of Madrid,
among other important works. Villanueva´s pupils expanded the Neoclassical
style in Spain. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth The center of Polish Neoclassicism was Warsaw
under the rule of the last Polish king Stanislaw August Poniatowski. Vilnius University was another important center
of the Neoclassical architecture in Europe, led by notable professors of architecture
Marcin Knackfus, Laurynas Gucevicius and Karol Podczaszynski. The style was expressed in the shape of main
public buildings, such as the University’s Observatory, Vilnius Cathedral and the town
hall. The best-known architects and artists, who
worked in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were Dominik Merlini, Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer,
Szymon Bogumil Zug, Jakub Kubicki, Antonio Corazzi, Efraim Szreger, Christian Piotr Aigner
and Bertel Thorvaldsen. Hungary The earliest examples of neoclassical architecture
in Hungary may be found in Vác. In this town the triumphal arch and the neoclassical
facade of the baroque Cathedral were designed by the French architect Isidor Marcellus Amandus
Ganneval in the 1760s. Also the work of a French architect Charles
Moreau is the garden facade of the Esterházy Palace in Kismarton. The two prinicpal architect of Neoclassicism
in Hungary was Mihály Pollack and József Hild. Pollack’s major work is the Hungarian National
Museum. Hild is famous for his designs for the Cathedral
of Eger and Esztergom. United States In the new republic, Robert Adam’s neoclassical
manner was adapted for the local late 18th and early 19th-century style, called “Federal
architecture”. One of the pioneers of this style was English-born
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who is often noted as one of the first formally trained America’s
professional architects and the father of American architecture. The Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic
Cathedral in the United States, is considered by many experts to be Latrobe’s masterpiece. The widespread use of neoclassicism in American
architecture, as well as by French revolutionary regimes, and the general tenor of rationalism
associated with the movement, all created a link between neoclassicism and republicanism
and radicalism in much of Europe. The Gothic Revival can be seen as an attempt
to present a monarchist and conservative alternative to neoclassicism. In later 19th-century American architecture,
neoclassicism was one expression of the American Renaissance movement, ca 1880-1917. Its last manifestation was in Beaux-Arts architecture,
and its very last, large public projects in the United States were the Lincoln Memorial,
the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History’s
Roosevelt Memorial. Today, there is a small revival of Classical
Architecture as evidenced by the groups such as The Institute of Classical Architecture
and Classical America. The School of Architecture at the University
of Notre Dame, currently teaches a fully Classical curriculum. USSR In the Soviet Union, neoclassical architecture
was very popular among the political elite, as it effectively expressed state power, and
a vast array of neoclassical building was erected all over the country. ”
Soviet neoclassical architecture was exported to other socialist countries of the Eastern
Bloc, as a gift from the Soviet Union. Examples of this include the Palace of Culture
and Science, Warsaw, Poland and the Shanghai International Convention Centre in Shanghai,
China. The Third Reich Neoclassical architecture was the preferred
style by the leaders of the National Socialist movement in the Third Reich, especially admired
by Adolf Hitler himself. Hitler commissioned his favourite architect,
Albert Speer, to plan a re-design of Berlin as a city comprising imposing neoclassical
structures, which would be renamed as Welthauptstadt Germania, the centrepiece of Hitler’s Thousand
Year Reich. These plans never came to fruition due to
the eventual downfall of Nazi Germany and the suicide of its leader. Neoclassical architecture today After a lull during the period of modern architectural
dominance, neoclassicism has seen somewhat of a resurgence. This rebirth can be traced to the movement
of New Urbanism and postmodern architecture’s embrace of classical elements as ironic, especially
in light of the dominance of Modernism. While some continued to work with classicism
as ironic, some architects such as Thomas Gordon Smith, began to consider classicism
seriously. While some schools had interest in classical
architecture, such as the University of Virginia, no school was purely dedicated to classical
architecture. In the early 1990s a program in classical
architecture was started by Smith and Duncan Stroik at the University of Notre Dame that
continues successfully. Programs at the University of Miami, Andrews
University, Judson University and The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community have trained
a number of new classical architects since this resurgence. Today one can find numerous buildings embracing
neoclassical style, since a generation of architects trained in this discipline shapes
urban planning. As of the first decade of the 21st century,
contemporary neoclassical architecture is usually classed under the umbrella term of
New Classical Architecture. Sometimes it is also referred to as Neo-Historicism/Revivalism,
Traditionalism or simply neoclassical architecture like the historical style. For sincere traditional-style architecture
that sticks to regional architecture, materials and craftsmanship, the term Traditional Architecture
is mostly used. The Driehaus Architecture Prize is awarded
to major contributors in the field of 21st century traditional or classical architecture,
and comes with a prize money twice as high as that of the modernist Pritzker Prize. Regional developments
In the United States various contemporary public buildings are built in neoclassical
style, with the 2006 Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville being an example. In Britain a number of architects are active
in the neoclassical style. Two new university Libraries, Quinlan Terry’s
Maitland Robinson Library at Downing College and ADAM Architecture’s Sackler Library illustrate
that the approach taken can range from the traditional, in the former case, to the unconventional,
in the latter case. Recently, Prince Charles came under controversy
for promoting a classically designed development on the land of the former Chelsea Barracks
in London. Writing to the Qatari Royal family he condemned
the accepted modernist plans, instead advocating a classical approach. His appeal was met with success and the plans
were withdrawn. A new design by architecture house Dixon Jones
is currently being drafted. See also Neo-Historism
New Urbanism Federal Period
Nordic Classicism Neoclassical architecture in Milan
John Carr Robert Adam
Sir William Chambers References Further reading
Andrew Skurman, “Contemporary Classical: The Architecture of Andrew Skurman”, Princeton
Architectural Press, 2012 Elizabeth Meredith Dowling, “New Classicism”,
Rizzoli, 2004 Jean-Francois Gabriel, “Classical Architecture
for the Twenty-first Century”, Norton, 2004 Hakan Groth. Neoclassicism in the North
Hugh Honour, Neoclassicism David Irwin, Neoclassicism
Stanislaw Lorentz. Neoclassicism in Poland
Thomas McCormick, 1991. Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the Genesis
of Neoclassicism Mario Praz. On Neoclassicism
External links Institute of Classical Architecture and Art
Traditional Architecture Group

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