Antiquity Greece

Posted: April 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Greek culture developments in art, architecture, literature, philosophy, and music have served as a source of design inspiration since their inception. The visual images established a language and grammar for architecture, interiors, furniture, and decorative arts copied by successive generations. Greek and Roman elements dominate the western culture well into the 20th Century. No other culture except for rome has had such a significant impact on the evolution of the western architectural landscape.

  • Architecture

Bright sun alternating with rainy periods contributes to a strong emphasis on building orientation, light and dark contrast, and cover walkways. Each part of a building has its own importance and logical arrangement. Repetition of forms, numbers, and carefully planned articulated transitions bring harmony to all parts. Symmetrical and horizontal structures show clarity, repose, and stability.


Temples, theaters, treasuries, civic centers for political gatherings, and sports centers for athletic events outdoors.

Temple of Zeus; 470 B.C.E; Olympia

City Planning

City Centers are planned arrangements of structures with each building focused on a different activity. Some structures are: Markets, stoas (colonnaded porch), public buildings, temples and tholoi (small round building with columns.)

Greek agora (marketplace) stoas example

The Tholois of Epidauros

Sacred Sites

Sanctuaries with temples and other sacred building are often sited on high promontory points for recognition, protection, and orientation. In a greek sanctuary each building is an individual element integrated to natural features of the landscape.

Acropolis (reconstruction model)


The dominant building type until the Hellenistic period, pay homage to a particular god. Conceived as sculpture and an offering to the gods, temples typically impress from the exterior view, with less attention paid to the interiors. The emphasis is a primarily on function- housing cult statues and treasures- over excessive decoration.

Temple of Athena Nike


Often used for dramatic productions, theaters are almost circular with a stage at center surrounded by rising tiers and seats. This shape enhances acoustical quality and has been imitated in contemporary  theaters.

Odeion of Herod Atticus

Classical Orders

A greek building develops from the ordering of principal structural members – stylobate, column, and entablature. This composition translates into the Greek interior, and later accentuates the ordering of many walls. Orders differ in proportion and details with capitals being the most distinguishing features.


the top step or platform for the base of columns, which later evolves into the interior wainscot and dado.


Has a distinguishing capital, shaft, and base. Doric and Ionic, the primary orders, differ from each other in proportion and detail. The shafts are fluted (concave). Doric shafts usually have entasis (convex). Caryatids (female figures) sometimes substitute as vertical posts.

Pilasters and Engaged Columns

Pilasters are rectangular projections from a wall with the general appearances and proportions of a column, they commonly adorn the corners of cella walls behind the porch, corresponding to columns. They are called antae when there are columns between them. Engaged Columns are columns attached to the wall, and are circular in plan view.

Modern pilaster

Engaged Column

Doric Order

The doric capital consists of an abacus (square block between the echinus and entablature) and an echinus (rounded cushion). The heavy shaft has about 20 flutes and no base. Near the neck of the capital are three annulets (grooves). Classical Doric shafts are slimmer and not as tapered. the echinus is not so pronounced.

Ionic Order

Developed about the same time as the Doric, the Ionic has two pairs of volutes (spiral scroll), one in front and one in back, joined at the side by a decorated concave cushion.

Corinthian Order

Developed as a variation of the Ionic order, the Corinthian order is similar except for the capital. Shaped like an inverted bell, the lower portion has two rows of eight acanthus leaves. Rising from the upper leaves are volutes. The  abacus is concave and ends in a point. Originally used inside temples.


The Greeks are the first to develop and extensively use a series of moldings to delineate the outlines of buildings.


Resting on top of columns, the entablature features a cornice, frieze, and architrave. The cornice develops from a series of 3D moldings, the frieze displays the carved or painted ornamentation, and the architrave is a flat, wide band.

Optical Refinements

The Greek adoption of a series of architectural adjustments that enhance the building, create dynamism, and correct any perceived optical illusions indicates a psychological understanding of the art and perception of building.


Early structures are made of wood cut from plentiful dense forests. Methods of construction and some detailing in wood subsequently translate to buildings of stone, the primary material for most public architecture. Marble and limestone are chosen frequently due to availability, ease of cutting, sharp edges, whiteness, and reflectance of light.


Rarely survives, enhances and emphasizes the details of temples, such as moldings, friezes, and triglyphs (ornamental striped banding). The most common colors are blue, red, black, or golden yellow. Terra cotta also contrasts with stonework.


Temples feature a columned portico, accenting the front and back of the building and providing a symbolic entry centered on longitudinal axis.


Temple roofs pitch on center, have curved terra cotta or marble tiles.

  • Interiors

Public interiors express an interconnected design relationship to exteriors, with repeats of architectural treatments, proportioning, materials, and color.

Public Buildings


primarily feature red, blue, and black and gradually expand as more is known about pigment mixture.


stone or mosaic tiles


The capital selection might vary from outside to inside.


Flat and beamed or coffered.

Private Buildings


Candelabras or floor candlesticks provide the primary source of lighting.


Packed earth and the more important rooms have mosaic tiles.


Embellished with stucco and paint.


Flat or beamed

  • Furnishings and Decorative Arts


Chairs, stools, chests, tables, and couches.

Distinctive Features

Animal, turned, or rectangular legs are typical.


Wood, marble, bronze, and iron.


An important Greek innovation is the klismos, a simple light chair that appears in varying forms in later periods. Throne chairs, seats of dignity, are richly decorated with inlays of gold, silver, ivory, and precious stones.


Used for meals, tables have round or rectangular tops with animal legs for bases.


Chests for storage change from rectangular boxes with paneled sides to ones with arched lids.


The kline or couch is for sleeping or for reclining during meals and at other times.


Wool, linen, and some silk.


Ceramic pottery

  • Design Characteristics

Geometric or Orientalizing Period 1100-650 B.C.E

Archaic 660-475 B.C.E

Classical 475-323 B.C.E

Hellenistic 323-30 B.C.E


Those derived from nature include: acanthus leaf, palmette, anthemion, lotus bud, honeysuckle vine, antefix, rosette, scroll, and rinceau. those developed from geometry are the fret, dentil, guilloche, egg and dart, swastika. Mythical beast like the sphinx, griffin, and chimera.


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