WEST ASIATIC ARCHITECTURE

West asiatic or mesopotamian architecture started on 4000 to 2100 B.C. present day iraq and iran, The fertile land between the tigris and euphrates river who is been named “Mesopotamia or the land between two rivers”. The Mesopotamian cultures did great things by exploiting their rivers. They regulated them as best as they could and that made possible, a fertile and even Edenesque landscape. Within this landscape, they cultivated sufficiently abundant crops to permit the large-scale storage of surplus of food, in turn, permitted the growth of large urban populations and that corollary of urbanism: specialization.

 

GEOLOGICAL INFLUENCES:

Alluvial district of thick mud and clay deposited by the two great rivers. Such soil, in which no stone was found and no trees would grow, was eminently suitable for themaking of bricks, which thus became the usual building material in Babylonia.
 

*Chaldeaa – Walls were made from crude, sun-dried brick faced with kiln-burnt and glazed bricks of different colors.

*Assyria – Plenty of stone in the mountains but followed Babylonians in the use of brick. They generally faced the walls internally and externally, not with glazed bricks, but with alabaster or limestone slabs carved with low bas-reliefs and inscriptions, which are of great historic importance.

*Persia – Hard, colored limestones which were used in the building of Susa and Persepolis, and roof-timbers were obtained from Elam on the west, while Persian tiles have always been world-famous for their beauty of texture and color.

CLIMATIC INFLUENCES:

*Chaldea -rain fells for weeks at a time
               -long summer
               -swarms of insects
*Assyria -had a similar climate
              -fewer swamps
*Persia   -dry, hot climate
              -country of sunshine and deserts
              -extreme of heat and cold

The architectural styles of the ancient nations which ruled over the countries of Western Asia watered by the Tigris and the Euphrates, from a period about 2200B.C. down to 330 B.C., are so intimately connected with one another, and so dependent upon one other, that it is almost impossible to accurately distinguish between the Babylonian, or ancient Chaldean, the Assyrian and the Persian. A clearer picture of the architecture of this long period will be gained by regarding the three styles as modifications and developments of one original style, rather than by attempting to separate them. Their sequence can, however, be accurately determined. First comes the old Chaldean period, next the Assyrian, during which the great city of Nineveh was built, and finally the Persian, after Cyrus had conquered the older monarchies.

ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER:

*BABYLONIAN ARCHITECTURE ( B.C. 4000-1275)
  -Ziggurat-most important structure
     •Temple towers, observatories built of mud brick and faced with baked bricks and bitumen.
     • Also called as holy mountains where sacred fire is kept burning.
     •Orientation of the four corners are towards the four cardinal points.
Ziggurat Development:
    1. Archaic Ziggurat
2. Two or more stages type ziggurat- multi story
3. Assyrian type or seven stages ziggurat- no stairs but a continuous ramp.
7 stages symbolizes 7 heavenly planet.
*ASSYRIAN ARCHITECTURE ( B.C.1275-538)

•Chief structure – Palaces
•Temples were with or without a ziggurat.
•Introduction of polychrome, ornamental brickwork and high fleets or pedestals, made of great stone slab.
•Presence of decorative continuous stone found in their interiors.

*PERSIAN ARCHITECTURE ( B.C.538-333)

•Persian palaces and tombs were derived from old civilizations. Palaces and tombs at Susa and Persepolis                                                suggest that the Persians adopted certain features from the conquered Assyrians, such as raised platforms, sculptured monsters, slabs of bas-relief, besides glazed and colored brickwork (polychrome bricks) which it is their glory to have brought to perfection.

ANALYSIS OF BUILDINGS.

Plan.

The floor-space of a great Assyrian or Medo-Persian building was laid out on a plan quite distinct from that of an Egyptian temple. The rooms are almost always grouped round quadrangles. The buildings are also placed on terraces, with attached flights of stairs. We find in Assyrian palaces, halls comparatively narrow in proportion to their great length, but still so wide that the roofing of them must have been a serious business. Halls are and found arranged side by side, often three deep. In the Persian buildings, halls nearly square on plan, and filled by a multitude of columns, occur frequently. In the plan of detached buildings like the Birs-i-Nimrud, we are reminded of the pyramids of Egypt.

Walls.

The magnificently worked granite and stones of Egypt give place to brick for the material of the walls. This allowed for quicker construction. But the remains of these structures have completely deteriorated over time, while Egyptian structures remain.

Roofs.

We can only judge of the roofs by inference, and a difference of opinion exists respecting them. It appears that a large proportion of the buildings must have been roofed by throwing timber beams from wall to wall and forming a thick platform of earth on them. At any rate, the stone roofs of the Egyptians seem to have been discarded, and with them the necessity for enormous columns and piers placed very close together. In some bas-reliefs, buildings with roofs of a domical shape are represented.

Openings.

The contours of doors, whether arch or lintel, remained in many cases to our time. In some instances, openings were arched. Great attention was paid to important doorways, and a large amount of magnificent sculpture was employed to enrich them.

Columns.

The columns most probably were of wood in Assyrian palaces. In some of the Persian ones, they were of marble, but of a proportion and treatment which point to an imitation of forms suitable for wood. The bases and capitals of these slender shafts are beautiful in themselves, and very interesting. They have become inspiration some of the forms in Greek architecture. And on the bas-reliefs, other architectural forms are represented, which were afterwards used by the Greeks.

Ornaments.

Sculptured slabs, painted wall decorations, and terra-cotta ornamentation were used as enrichments of the walls. These slabs, are objects of the deepest interest. So are the carved bulls from gateways. In the smaller and more purely ornamental decorations the honeysuckle, and other forms familiar to us from their subsequent adoption by Greek artists, are met with constantly, executed with great taste.

Architectural Character.

A character of lavish and ornate magnificence is the quality most strongly displayed by the architectural remains of Western Asia. We probably would have been impressed with their designs, if any remains of that period still existed.

Showing a repeated floral design with bead pattern border at the bottom
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