History of Architectural Design and Theory of the 4 Periods in Ancient Civilization Literature Review

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¶ … human history, the concept of expression through architecture, stone, granite, metal, wood and concrete has extended through the course of human history. Since the dawn of time man has attempted to express himself and his surroundings as well as convey messages through structures. Man has honored himself, royalty and deities through constructions of ornate structures that posses such detailed reliefs as to leave the archeologist, architect and anthropologist spell bound as to the level of detail utilized by these primitive peoples. The evolution of architectural structures and techniques has evolved continuously as man has improved his ability to utilize those tools that are at his disposal.

The ancient Sumerians and Babylonians utilized various stone structures to create their structures. The ancient Romans utilized stone columns and high arches to construct ornate structures that housed government, ancient houses of worship and residential spaces. Roman architecture was the predicate for those architectural principles that modern architecture relies upon to this very day. Similarly, Ancient Greek architecture also contributed to the rapid advancement of design and building principles that are employed by modern architecture. Ancient Egyptians incorporated advanced usage of angles that utilize sophisticated principles of physics and mathematics.

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The purpose of this section is to review the main pieces of literature that discuss the principles of design from Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome. Each of these periods represents a critical step in the development of fundamental architectural concepts that have proven critical for the development of Western Architecture. Furthermore, this section will discuss certain, pivotal periods within each ancient historical context to highlight the main developments that have fostered the extension and evolution of architectural principles throughout the various historical contexts.

Architectural History of Mesopotamia

TOPIC: Literature Review on History of Architectural Design and Theory of the 4 Periods in Ancient Civilization Assignment

Mesopotamian architecture can be delinted into several distinct stages. These stages are the Akkadian Period (2370 BC-2230 BC), Noe-Sumerian Period (2230-2000 BC), Isin-Lasra Period (2006 BC-1600 BC) and the Noe-Assyrian Period (1000 BC-612 BC) (Adams 59). Each of these periods contain their own unique attributes to ancient art and architecture. To adequate understand the development of Mesopotamian architecture one has to have a firm grasp of the region, its geography and regional customs that influenced the various architectural representations.

Mesopotamia includes the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now Iraq. Biblical scholars refer to this area as the proposed location of the mythical "Garden of Eden" where man first emerged into creation. The Mesopotamian culture persisted in this region due to Sumerian speaking individuals from approximately 3500 BC to 359 BC (Akkermans 15). During this period a great development of contrasting architectural developments transpired. Mesopotamian geography is divided into two sections, the Northern Section and Southern Section (Akkermans 22).

The Northern section had cave dwelling humans from the Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age) until 2000 BC. At this point tribes dependent on agriculture deriving its sustenance from rainfall began to populate the Southern section (Le Miere 16). This section of Mesopotamia was not fully settled until sometime after the 6th Millennial when a rudimentary form of irrigation was introduced into the farmland making it easier for individuals in this area to deliver much needed water to their crops (Blacham 8). The development of this form of irrigation allowed those in the Southern region to develop more effective crop management, specifically the palm date and barley (Blackham 12). As a direct result, cities began to develop in the southern region of Mesopotamia. Cities also began to develop in the Northern section of Mesopotamia at this time period as well, leading to divergent cultural characteristics.

The divergent cultural conditions between the two sections of Mesopotamia lead to the first emergence of what academia now refers to as "Multi-Culturalism." This "Multi-Culturalism" developed the stark contrasts in architectural styles. The architectural styles incorporated into Mesopotamian culture were derived from the culture centers around the region, some of these influences extended through the Middle East as far as Egypt. The architectural style or "stages" of Mesopotamian had their origination in the Akkadian Period between 2370 and 2230 BC (Charvat 79).

This period refers to the first Mesopotamian "dynasty" that was comprised of a ruling class from the city of Akkad that were primarily Sumerian speaking individuals. Although this was the first dynastic period of Mesopotamia, it does not reveal a great deal of specific architectural pieces. Rather, this was the period where Mesopotamian thematic representations were first introduced (Robinson 101). Mesopotamian architecture in this period, reflected their heroes in religious contexts. However, rather than focusing on expressing the narrative of a religious event, the Mesopotamian architecture of this time focused rather on expressing the role of the individual through stone motifs and barif reliefs that depicted prehistoric battles between good and evil. The second phase of Mesopotamian architecture referred to as the Noe-Sumerian period resulting in the overthrow of the Akkad dynasty.

In about 2230 BC, a band of mountaineers, the Guti, overthrew the Akkadian empire. The following period was marked by a Sumerian revival under the kings of Ur, who drove off the Guti and then ruled over Sumer and Akkad from c.2120 to 2000 BC. Early in this period the rulers of the city-state of Lagash built temples and produced sculpture that differed greatly from Akkadian art. Gudea, ruler of Lagash, commissioned a series of hard-stone sculptures in which he is depicted as a humble and pious worshiper of the gods, rather than as their equal (Dalley 35).

A characteristic form of temple used during this period was the so-called broad cella -- a broad and shallow room approached through a series of entrance halls and courts. In this temple the statue of the god, or in some cases the deified ruler, could be glimpsed from afar. The statue was kept separate from the worshiper not by the layout of the temple as in earlier times, but by the many axially arranged spaces that separated the worshiper from his god.

Compared to the architectural remains, Noe-Sumerian art is scarce. Those pieces which have been preserved are religious and conservative, yet exquisitely crafted, as is the art of Gudea. The designs of cylinder seals are rigidly composed, with a similar preponderance of religious themes. Foundations of the vernacular architecture of Mesopotamia were laid in the Neolithic age. Ever since that time the walls of local houses have been built of clay or stone with ceilings of timber. Reed matting, lying on these, was, in its turn, covered by well-trampled layers of clay which sometimes received a protective layer of bitumen. In 2000 BC the Noe-Sumerian period ended when Ur was overthrown by the Ameroites a Semitic people who absorbed into the city-state of Babylonia. The architectural evidence of these two periods is not very extensive. Nothing is known of Babylon at this time, and the most impressive building yet excavated is the palace at Mari, a powerful trading center before it fell (c.1760 BC) to Hammurabi (Wallenfels 120). Little evidence of architectural significance developed during the Babylonian period. However, the following Noe-Assyran period was the largest Mesopotamian kingdom and as a direct consequence this was the period of greatest Architectural expansion.

The architecture of that very early time displays some features which are unique and easily recognized. Terracotta cones or pegs of various kinds adorned mud-brick walls, inserted into the brickwork so that their heads formed a decorative mosaic-like facade. These artifacts, together with clay sealings impressed by cylinders, are the distinctive objects which allow Mesopotamian contact and influence to be traced beyond the boundaries of the homeland, and they show an influence far wider than anyone suspected a few decades ago (Akkermans 89). Terracotta cones and cylinder seal impressions have now been found on numerous archaeological sites in north Syria and south-eastern Turkey, particularly in settlements along the banks of the upper Euphrates river. In Egypt too they have been found: cones at Buto in the western delta of the Nile, and cylinder-seal impressions at Abydos. For the next 3,000 years seals and sealings transported artistic motifs in miniature to far-distant regions (Robinson 74).

Several designs for arches and vaults have been found in Mesopotamia much earlier than elsewhere. Brick arches both slightly pointed and virtually flat, vaults laid both with pitched and with radial bricks, and a pitched brick vault resting on pendentives have been found on excavations from at least 2000 BC in temples and tombs (Dalley 104). Plastered temple facades which imitate a grove of trees also go back to the third millennium. They were made with specially molded bricks. By about 1500 BC they were combined with the figures of deities set in between the pillar-trunks. These were common to the architecture of many major temples, in both the north and the south of the country. Similar effects are found much later in Classical and Hellenistic temples (Charvat 105).

The Persians have managed to achieve a favorable public image by comparison with the Assyrians through the bias of Old Testament writers, but in fact their own… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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