Architecture and City Planning in Ancient Greece: Summary

Posted by Lola Stewart on December 30th, 2020

The reviewed paper describes and analyzes the development of architecture and city planning in ancient Greece. It covers three historical periods: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. Besides, it focuses on the most famous examples of Greek architecture such as Parthenon and buildings on the Acropolis. Additionally, the paper addresses the development of city planning in Greece, peculiarities of Hellenistic cities, and urban planning.

During the Archaic period (700-500 BCE), one of the main contributions of Greek builders and architects to the architectural history was the development of grid plan that became a typical example of city planning during Greek expansion and colonization in Asia Minor, Sicily, Italy, and North Africa. Common grid-plan towns were built in an orderly fashion. For example, the temple and the market were located at the center of the city surrounded by rectangular blocks of houses. Another significant architectural contribution of the Archaic period was the development of a temple design that was adopted for building temples in the following periods. For example, the houses of prayer were not built anymore as simple one-room structures but had a rear room, a naos/cella, and a front porch supported by columns. They served as a manifestation of a strong sculptural quality and gave additional distinction to temples. At that time, Greeks developed three types of building with different connecting bases, capitals, and supported elements of temples. Today, these types are known as orders of architecture. These orders form the basis of the classical language of architecture and include the Doric order (sturdy structure), the Ionic order (lighter proportions), and the Corinthian (the slenderest of all).

The Classical period in Greek history (479-323 BCE) is known as a mature phase of Greek architecture. Since Athens was the center of political, military, religious, and cultural life during the Classical period, the largest and most famous buildings and temples were built then. The largest famous the temple is the Parthenon, a Doric temple, dedicated to Athena, patron goddess of the city. The positioning and size of columns vary to “avoid strict geometrical perfection and so to breath life into the stone composition. Other impressive buildings of the classical period are located on the Athenian Acropolis and include smaller temples and the Athenian Agora, the commercial and civic center of the city. The Classical period and building on the Acropolis signify the moment of architectural glory in Greece.

The end of the Classical period and the beginning of the Hellenistic period are associated with the reign of Alexander the Great. The Hellenistic architectural tradition shifted from the Classical adopting freer and showier architectural interpretations found in Asia and introducing greater cultural ornamentation. The Hellenistic period was a time of experiments with traditional architectural standards. At that time, many permanent buildings for theatrical performances were built. The architects developed a system of cross and radial aisles to provide easy and convenient access from entrances to multiple levels of the theaters. Moreover, the acoustical design was perfected to the point that words spoken in a normal voice on the stage were heard from all the seats. Notably, the departure from classical democratic values affected Greek architecture. For example, theaters were planned and built to accommodate growing hierarchical rigidity and to enable nobles and average citizens to sit separately.

Greeks made a significant contribution to the art of city planning considering the Athenian Agora, Pergamon in Asia Minor, and typical grid-plan towns. They arranged the city area to fit the public buildings, major open public spaces, shops, and private buildings harmoniously. During the Hellenistic period, architecture and city planning became more theatrical and elaborate. Finally, the concept of arcaded and colonnaded walkways and space with shops facing major open public spaces was frequently used to design urban areas in the following centuries.

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Lola Stewart

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Lola Stewart
Joined: December 30th, 2020
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