Since February Mackenzie, Janelle, and I have been contributing to our own series of blogs on the history of architecture. And for the most part, it has been a smooth ride, but we’ve gotten a bit muddled (even amongst ourselves!) about when in the overall timeline we are.   So this week we’re taking a step back to look at the larger picture. 

Simple, Distinct.

Architectural styles before about the 1800s were fairly distinct.  While timeframes overlapped and styles often “cross pollinated” towards the beginnings and ends of those timelines, the core styles are distinct and easily identifiable. 

examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture
Styles from Left to Right: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque.  All distinct styles with varying degrees of ornamentation, geometric regulation, and symmetry.

But wait, everything seems the same and I’m confused? Us too.

Between the late 1700s and the early 1900s, there was a period when architectural styles all tended to blend together and were all heavily influenced by “classical” architecture from Rome and Greece.  While all separate periods of architectural history, academically speaking it is frequently difficult to tell them apart, and it often means relying on subtle differences to distinguish between them. (As Janelle discussed in her blog on Federal Architecture.) 

Unfortunately, this is where we are in the overall timeline of the blog series.  We know everything seems like the same stuff repackaged under a new title (a LOT of it is) and that everything is a “revival” (yeah, we’re bored of saying it too!), but if you stick with us we promise that we’ll get back to distinct and iconic styles soon.

examples of Georgian, Federalist, Neoclassical and Greek Revival architecture
Styles from Left to Right: Georgian, Federalist, Neoclassical, Greek Revival.  This is like a spot-the-difference puzzle.  Let’s see, smaller windows, pediments, use of columns (which order is that?) …

Different is good.

After the early 1900s architecture starts to separate out again into identifiable styles.  While the classical influence hasn’t been completely phased out of even today’s architectural style, it was greatly reduced and was allowed to be interpretive instead of derivative.  (Personally, I think designers in the early 1900s were as tired of all the Greek and Roman revivals as we are!)

examples of Prairie, Modern, Art Nouveau, and Mid-Century Modern architecture
Styles from Left to Right: Prairie, Modern, Art Nouveau, Mid-Century Modern.  No two are the same!  Finally!


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