Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, the Vitruvian principles, and the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
Neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts. The style is manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formula as an outgrowth of some classicising features of Late Baroque. Neoclassical architecture is still designed today, but may be labelled New Classical Architecture for contemporary buildings.
Neoclassical, or “new” classical, architecture describes buildings that are inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. If you look closely at a Neoclassical building you may see echoes of the Parthenon in Athens or the Pantheon in Rome.
Neoclassical buildings have many (although not necessarily all) of these features:
Characteristic of the neoclassical architecture
- Symmetrical shape
- Tall columns that rise the full height of the building
- Triangular pediment
- Domed roof
High neoclassicism was an international movement. Though neoclassical architecture employed the same classical vocabulary as Late Baroque architecture, it tended to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of light and shade were more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs were flatter and tended to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels.
Neoclassical buildings can be divided into three main types. A temple style building features a design based on an ancient temple, while a Palladian building is based on Palladio’s style of villa construction. The third type is the classical block building, described later in this section.
Temple style buildings were uncommon during the Renaissance; architects of that period focused mainly on applying classical elements to churches and modern buildings (e.g. palazzos, villas). Temple style architecture exploded during the Neoclassical age. Many temple style buildings feature a peristyle (a continuous line of columns around a building), which is rarely found in Renaissance architecture.
The most famous temple style buildings of the Neoclassical age may be the Panthéon and the British Museum (London, by Robert Smirke). The former is Roman-based (modelled after the Pantheon in Rome), while the latter is Greek-based.
Palladian architecture is derived from the villas of Andrea Palladio, the greatest architect of the Late Renaissance. Palladio, like famous artists generally, was followed by many successors who absorbed and worked in his style; these ranged from unoriginal imitators to artistic geniuses, the latter of whom applied old ideas in brilliant new ways. Interestingly, Palladio’s greatest successors emerged primarily in England.
Robert Adam is the most famous Neoclassical architect to work in the Palladian style, the most famous of all Palladian buildings are two American civic buildings, the White House and United States Capitol. Both were constructed over long periods under various architects.
Some of the buildings in the above gallery feature a balustrade (a railing with vertical supports) along the edge of the roof. (The vertical supports within a balustrade are known as “balusters” or “spindles”.) The balustrade is a common classical method of crowning a building that has a flat/low-lying roof.
A classical block building features a vast rectangular (or square) plan, with a flat (or low-lying) roof and an exterior rich in classical detail. The exterior is divided into multiple levels, each of which features a repeated classical pattern, often a series of arches and/or columns. The overall impression of such a building is an enormous, classically-decorated rectangular block.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL BUILDING
The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building or Capitol Hill, is the seat of the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It sits atop Capitol Hill, at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Contrary to a popular myth, D.C. building height laws have never referred to the height of the Capitol building, which rises to 289 feet (88 m).
The Capitol Grounds cover approximately 274 acres (1.11 km²), with the grounds proper consisting mostly of lawns, walkways, streets, drives, and planting areas. Several monumental sculptures used to be located on the east facade and lawn of the Capitol including The Rescue and George Washington. The current grounds were designed by noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who planned the expansion and landscaping performed from 1874 to 1892. In 1875, as one of his first recommendations
The Capitol’s building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda in the central section of the structure (which also includes, the older original smaller center flanked by the two original (designed 1793, occupied 1800) smaller two wings (inner north) and inner south) containing the two original smaller meeting chambers for the Senate and the House of Representatives (between 1800 and late 1850s) and then flanked by two further extended (newer) wings, one also for each chamber of the larger, more populous Congress: the new north wing is the Senate chamber and the new south wing is the House of Representatives chamber.
On the ground floor is an area known as the Crypt. It was intended to be the burial place of George Washington, with a ringed balustrade at the center of the Rotunda above looking down to his tomb.
The Hall of Columns is located on the House side of the Capitol, home to twenty-eight fluted columns and statues from the National Statuary Hall Collection. In the basement of the Capitol building in a utility room are two marble bathtubs, which are all that remain of the once elaborate Senate baths. These baths were a spa-like facility designed for members of Congress and their guests before many buildings in the city had modern plumbing. The facilities included several bathtubs, a barbershop, and a massage parlor.