Classical Humanism and Architecture

INTRODUCTION Classical humanism in architecture is a direct reflection of a human quest of self-realization through ages. As for the recorded evidences one can go back to the periods of Plato, Zeno, Epicurus or Aristotle – the period reigned by Greco-Roman philosophers – when this quest of ‘know thyself’ flourished and established itself as a philosophy to woo the future generations. Thus this essay takes a quick look to expressions of classical humanism through the wonderful architectural remains of Acropolis that contains the signs of evolution in architecture too – before coming into its own conclusion.

Classical Division of Greco-Roman Architecture The period in discussion contains three distinctive division of architecture, viz. , Doric, Ionic and Corinthian order. Doric could be termed as the mainstream architecture of Greece, which later gave way to Ionic and Corinthian order, where each of them can be identified through their different finishes at the sections like cornice, frieze, architrave, capital, shaft and base.

Out of them two styles still co habit in Acropolis – Parthenon and Erechtheum, while the third, belonging to Roman era, has two of its bright examples in the ‘Temple of the Sybil’ in Rome or in the Charlotte City Hall (Shulman).

Classical Humanism It can be identified as the improvised state of early Greek Humanism (1200-750 B. C. ), when the Greeks had evolved with the concept of arete (human excellence), where the guiding elements were “courage, loyalty, generosity, mercy, dignity, decency, honor, stoicism and strength” (Sunami, 2004).

Gradually the depiction of these elements as virtues took shape in architectural details besides other modes of expressions like drama, painting or writing, where a realistic approach dominated the proceedings.

It is because of that the human-centered sculptures done by them or the details in their architecture attempts to create near-perfect depiction of figures. Parthenon In spite of its present dilapidated state, Parthenon (447-432 B. C.), the home of Greek goddess Athena Perthenos (the ‘Virgin Athena’) is easily the best example of both Doric architecture and Humanism, where its simple columns and the detailed human figures would reflect a ‘plain living and high thinking’ philosophy.

In fact, the Doric architecture relied much on the solidity rather than frills, which is evident in its many expressions, like the shafts of its overall 46 columns or their capitals and friezes besides cornices.

As for humanism, it contained many figures, and especially the ‘metops’ (relief-works), which were altogether 92 in number, spread all around to depict the series of mythological events or the successful war ventures of the people of Athens. The near-accurate depiction of various muscuto-skeletal states of humans speaks of the deep thoughts applied by their creators. Erectheum Thereafter, the fascination with mathematics and geometry of the Greeks belonging to the period 500 B.

C. – 30 B. C. , led to their advancement in architecture (Sunami, 2004) while maintaining their idea of humanism. A great example of such an evolution could be seen in Erectheum (421-405 B. C. ), which had replaced Doric architecture by Ionic order, a style developed in Ionia region of Greece. The six Ionic columns of its facade beholding six sculpted figures of maidens with large ‘bead and reel’ and ‘egg and dart’ moldings (Osborne), corroborates the fact.

Corinthian Order Further departure from Doric is observed in Corinthian order of architectural style, where the capitals of its pillars started having “flowers and leaves below a small scroll” (Shulman), besides tweaking its shafts and cornices to establish a flattened look, altogether indicating evolution in both architecture and philosophy of humanism, where the later emphasized on nature more than before.

CONCLUSION The philosophy of humanism or the trends in architecture are both never-ending subjects, but the wonderful episode of their togetherness in the early era sill serves as food for thoughts like ‘simplicity is the hallmark of elegance’ or ‘every instance of human existence is embedded with history, philosophy and nature’. Ends Works Cited Shulman, B. R.

“Classical Orders. ” Retrieved 20 December 2007, from Sunami, C. 2004. “History of Humanism. ” Retrieved 20 December 2007, from http://kitoba. com/pedia/History+of+Humanism. html Osborne, R. “The Erechtheum”. Retrieved 20 December 2007, from http://www. jact. org/publications/sample_erechtheum. htm.