In celebration of 2013’s National Architecture Week, Questia is promoting a portion of its archive devoted to architecture books and articles for undergraduates pursuing architectural studies. Top architects continue to command major media attention and Toyo Ito, a Japanese architect, is no exception having recently been awarded his profession’s top honor, the Pritzer Architecture Prize.
Architecture, which is the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings, takes us back to more than 10,000 years to the Neolithic period, or the latter part of the Stone Age. Great builders using mud and brick originated in the Middle East and Mediterranean (at the time called Mesopotamia) and proliferated throughout Europe and Central Asia.
It was not until 200 B.C. when builders in Greece and Turkey devised cement as a material to replace weaker mortars for construction. In the late 1st century, A.D. the Roman architect Vitruvius put together what is widely considered the oldest surviving work on the subject of architecture, De architectura. Roman architectural engineering, with its emphasis on arches, vaults, and domes, would spread across Europe and its basilica design would eventually provide a model for the Christian church.
Merging styles from the Roman Empire, Greece, and India helped give rise to Islamic architecture, with its popular emphasis on Mosques, Madrasahs (public schools), Hammams (designs for bathhouses), Casbahs and Citadels. An early and recognizable example of Islamic architecture includes the Dome of the Rock based in Jerusalem and completed in 691 A.D.
Around the time of the early Middle Ages emerged Romanesque architecture, which was a revisiting of Roman-styled architecture circa 800-1100AD. In particular, stone used was cut with precision and was supported in the middle by arch construction. Buttresses were introduced as a means of support to the basic design in Romanesque architecture. Famed cathedrals employing the Romanesque style include Reims Cathedral, completed towards the end of the 13th century, and the Milan Cathedral, or “Duomo di Milano,” one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world; it took nearly five centuries to complete.
Renaissance architecture debuted in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators in the early 15th century. With a focus on symmetry, proportion, and geometry, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities and then to France, Germany, England, Russia and elsewhere. One of Burnelleschi’s most famous examples of Quattrocento (a return to the Roman and Greek sculptors) is the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence officially completed in 1459.
Modern architecture varies widely in its scope and definition but it was at the turn of the 20th century coinciding with rapid technological advances that architectural design began taking on simpler styles. The industrial revolution made possible the use of materials for construction previously unavailable, including iron, steel, and sheet glass. One of the most original and famous modern architects of the 20th century is Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). Wright embraced the social and technological changes during his time, designing structures he felt met the individual physical, social, and spiritual needs of the modern American citizen. Wright called his architecture “organic” as he was inspired by Nature to create modern day environments that nourished the human soul. Fallingwater remains one of his most enduring architectural works.
We at Questia hope this brief overview of architectural history will prompt you to take peek inside our listing of architecture books and articles. Below is a snapshot of our archive providing you with great reference material on many of the architectural styles outlined above. Enjoy!
This book is intended as an introductory survey of the architecture of the Middle Ages in western Europe from circa A.D. 300 to 1500, from the early Christian period through the late Gothic in Europe. It aims to fill a gap between the very selective and cursory mention of major medieval buildings in general surveys of art or architectural history and the in-depth books on particular periods or regions, so that the interested reader can find in one volume what has previously been scattered through myriad expensive books.
[Calkins, Robert G. Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Questia. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.]
Filippo Brunelleschi’s design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of more than 140 feet exceeds St Paul’s in London and St Peter’s in Rome, makes it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. Ross King tells the story of its creation and its brilliant creator.
[King, Ross. Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. New York: Walker, 2000. Questia. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.]
This anthology examines the heterogeneous modern culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and traces its manifestations in architecture and the city. The essays present a wide variety of approaches and materials, a heterogeneity which in itself constitutes an apt image of the multiplicity of viewpoints characterizing modernity.
[Hvattum, Mari, and Christian Hermansen, eds. Tracing Modernity: Manifestations of the Modern in Architecture and the City. New York: Routledge, 2004. Questia. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.]
Written with the non-Muslim reader in mind, this book analyses the principles and values established by Islamic tradition to govern the social and physical environments of Muslims.
The picture of Islam that emerges from this work is of a way of life with social ideals. Relying on the Qur’an and Sunna, the basic sources of Islamic law, and using examples of the built environment of early Muslims in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia, the author explains how following these ideals can create an urban environment that responds to social and environmental variables. Islamic views on the controversial issue of modernization are also examined.
[Mortada, Hisham. Traditional Islamic Principles of Built Environment. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Questia. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.]
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is probably the most famous architect in the world. He is author of undoubtedly the most famous private home in the world, Fallingwater, which perches so dramatically on the cliff overhanging the eponymous waterfall near Pittsburgh. How did this acknowledged masterpiece, this work of such singular genius, come to be? The story of Fallingwater’s inception serves as a perfect introduction to the persona that Wright, and to an extent those who knew him, fashioned for popular media consumption.
[Steffensen, Ingrid. "Frank Lloyd Wright and the "Gift" of Genius." Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA) 32.3 (2009): 257+. Questia. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.]