Early Modern Architecture History

The period that begins near the tail-end of the Middle Ages and that lasts until the start of the Industrial Revolution is known to most historians as the “early modern” or “post-medieval” period.

In Europe, the Reformation happened during this period and led to many religious battles. Capitalism also became important, as did the colonization of the Americans.

Greek and Roman Influence

Despite everything going on in Europe, new architectural styles were still being produced during this time. However, “new” is not an entirely fair term, since much of the architecture was influenced by ancient Greek and Roman architecture. This fact makes perfect sense when one considers that the entire culture, in terms of thought and lifestyle, was still heavily influenced by ancient Greek and Roman culture at the time.

Renaissance Architecture

The new style of architecture, however, was given a name: Renaissance architecture. It came in and took over where Gothic architecture had left off, only to eventually be surpassed by Baroque architecture.

Renaissance architecture is credited mainly to the Italians, with the style believed to have first been utilized in Florence. However, evidence of Renaissance architecture still exists in France, Russia, and many other parts of Europe.

Classical Influence

The influence of classical architecture upon Renaissance architecture is more than clear. The great focus on symmetry and the use of geometric principles found in Renaissance architecture all have classical roots.

Distinctive Features

Distinctive Renaissance architectural features include carefully organized columns, semicircular arches, and domes. The style also separates itself from Medieval architecture by rejecting overly complicated designs and jumbled side-views.

The Imperial Palace/Forbidden City

While European architecture during this time period is widely discussed, few people, other than historians, really consider the importance of what was happening in Asian countries.

For example, the Chinese Imperial Palace, known as the “Forbidden City,” was an important architectural site at the time. It housed emperors and served as a major political center for the Chinese government.

Built to be as large and impressive as possible, the construction of the palace was very much a “power play” for the Chinese citizens.

Yuanmingyuan Summer Palace

Yet another important architectural structure that was established as a kind of “power play” is the famous Summer Palace. The Palace was built for Wanyan Liang, a Jin Dynasty emperor, when he relocated to Beijing. Later, the palace would be inhabited by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Architecture to Establish and Maintain Power

While Europe was building architecture mainly for stylistic and religious purposes, Japan and China were attempting to establish and maintain power via their structures.

This difference in architectural purposes clearly shows just how diverse and separate the two parts of the world were becoming.

Regardless of that fact, however, all architectural styles during the period did influence and build upon one another, a tradition that continues to this day and that will likely continue indefinitely. “Tradition,” in fact, might be the wrong word. It is innate in architecture for design to influence design and to flow into the future.

History of Ideas in Architecture 3: Post-Medieval (Medieval to Early Modern)

Architecture across Eurasia from 1400 – 1750.

Courses that cover the Medieval Period:

  1. Chinese Architecture History, Beijing c.1400 – c.1750
    1.  Imperial Palace/Forbidden City
    2.  Yuanmingyuan summer palace
    3.  Ming & Qing Tombs
    4.  Also: peasant huts in Beijing region; town houses in Beijing during that time.

2.  All About Japanese Architecture; Architectural Imagery for a Class-structured  State in Japan c.1500 – c.1890

  1.  Imperial Palace, Kyoto
  2.  Katsura Villa
  3.  Hideyoshi’s Castle, Osaka
  4.  Nikko
  5. Toyonaka field museum 

3.  History of Russian Architecture; c.1450-c.1750:  A Class-structured State of Sorts

  1.  Moscow Kremlin
  2.  Red Square
  3.  Old Palace, Kolomenskoye
  4.  Winter Palace
  5. log buildings,  Kolomenskoye; 18th-century houses
  6. Anichkov  mansion 

4.  European Architecture History; Palaces for Western Princes: Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo c.1400-c.1750

  1. Chambord
  2. Escorial
  3. Sans Souci, Postsdam
  4. Tres Riches Heures: Charles V’s Louvre; peasant huts 

5.  New Architecture & New Society in the West: Early Western Architecture

  1. Palazzo Medici, Florence
  2. Sephardic Synagogue, Amsterdam
  3. Villa Rotunda
  4. Vitruvius Britannicus
  5. Monticello
  1. Palazzi Rucellai
  2. Riccardi
  3. Florence Stock Exchange
  4. Monticello


Jay The Bubble- Beaver's picture

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Bubble Beaver, Jay