Neoclassical architecture

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Entrance of a small neoclassical city-house from Bucharest (Romania) The 16 house on the Beautiful Street from Bucharest (Romania) 1.jpg
Entrance of a small neoclassical city-house from Bucharest (Romania)

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the Neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century in Italy and France. 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. [1]


The development of archaeology was crucial in the emergence of Neoclassical architecture. Excavation sites like those in Pompeii and Herculaneum allowed architects to make in depth interpretations of Classical architecture and synthesize their own unique style. [2]

In form, 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 formulae as an outgrowth of some classicising features of the Late Baroque architectural tradition. Therefore, the style defined by symmetry, simple geometry, and social demands instead of ornament. [3] Neoclassical architecture is still designed today, but may be labelled New Classical architecture for contemporary buildings.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the style is usually referred to as 'Classicism', while the newer revival styles of the 19th century until today are called Neoclassical.


Intellectually, neoclassicism was symptomatic of a desire to return to the perceived "purity" of the arts of Rome, to the more vague perception ("ideal") of Ancient Greek arts and, to a lesser extent, 16th-century Renaissance Classicism, which was also a source for academic Late Baroque architecture. Its roots date back to the 17th century when Claude Perrault decided to revive Ancient Greek architecture. [3]


The Palais de la Legion d'Honneur, on the Left Bank of the River Seine in Paris Hotel de Salm, Paris May 2014.jpg
The Palais de la Légion d'Honneur, on the Left Bank of the River Seine in Paris

A return to more classical architectural forms as a reaction to the Rococo style can be detected in some European architecture of the earlier 18th century, most vividly represented in the Palladian architecture of Georgian Britain and Ireland.

The Baroque style had never truly been to the English taste. Four influential books were published in the first quarter of the 18th century which highlighted the simplicity and purity of classical architecture: Vitruvius Britannicus by Colen Campbell (1715), Palladio's I quattro libri dell'architettura (The Four Books of Architecture, 1715), De re aedificatoria by Leon Battista Alberti (1726) and The Designs of Inigo Jones... with Some Additional Designs (1727). The most popular was the four-volume Vitruvius Britannicus by Colen Campbell. The book contained architectural prints of famous British buildings that had been inspired by the great architects from Vitruvius to Palladio. At first the book mainly featured the work of Inigo Jones, but the later tomes contained drawings and plans by Campbell and other 18th-century architects. Palladian architecture became well established in 18th-century Britain.

At the forefront of the new school of design was the aristocratic "architect earl", Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington; in 1729, he and William Kent, designed Chiswick House. This House was a reinterpretation of Palladio's Villa Capra "La Rotonda", but purified of 16th century elements and ornament. This severe lack of ornamentation was to be a feature of the Palladianism. In 1734, William Kent and Lord Burlington designed one of England's finest examples of Palladian architecture with Holkham Hall in Norfolk. The main block of this house followed Palladio's dictates quite closely, but Palladio's low, often detached, wings of farm buildings were elevated in significance.

This classicising vein was also detectable, to a lesser degree, in the Late Baroque architecture in Paris, such as in the Louvre Colonnade. This shift was even visible in Rome at the redesigned façade for Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran.


Tur, Villa Boscoreale.jpg
Porte d'entree du palais de Justice de Bruxelles (HDR) - 2043-0077-0.jpg
Comparison between a 1st century AD Roman wall painting of an ornate door, in the Villa Boscoreale (Italy); and a massive 19th century Neoclassical door of the Palace of Justice (Brussels, Belgium)
Detail of the Theatre de la Renaissance in Paris, in which can be seen some decorations which are widely used in Neoclassical architecture: mascarons, cartouches, festoons, corbels, various leaves (mainly acanthus, but sometimes oak) and branches, rustications, trophies, horns of abundance, lion heads holding a ring in their mouths, female faces surrounded by garlands, and other details of Classical and Renaissance architecture or other applied arts Paris 10e Theatre de la Renaissance 405.jpg
Detail of the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, in which can be seen some decorations which are widely used in Neoclassical architecture: mascarons, cartouches, festoons, corbels, various leaves (mainly acanthus, but sometimes oak) and branches, rustications, trophies, horns of abundance, lion heads holding a ring in their mouths, female faces surrounded by garlands, and other details of Classical and Renaissance architecture or other applied arts

By the mid 18th century, the movement broadened to incorporate a greater range of classical influences, including those from Ancient Greece. An early centre of neoclassicism was Italy, especially Naples, where by the 1730s court architects such as Luigi Vanvitelli and Ferdinando Fuga were recovering classical, Palladian and Mannerist forms in their Baroque architecture (a similar aesthetic move can be seen in the later works of the Piedmontese court architect Filippo Juvarra in Turin). Following their lead, Giovanni Antonio Medrano began to build the first truly neoclassical structures in Italy in the 1730s. In the same period, Alessandro Pompei introduced neoclassicism to the Venetian Republic, building one of the first lapidariums in Europe in Verona, in the Doric style (1738). During the same period, neoclassical elements were introduced to Tuscany by architect Jean Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey, the court architect of Francis Stephen of Lorraine. On Jadot's lead, an original neoclassical style was developed by Gaspare Paoletti, transforming Florence into the most important centre of neoclassicism in the peninsula. In the second half of the century, Neoclassicism flourished also in Turin, Milan (Giuseppe Piermarini) and Trieste (Matteo Pertsch). In the latter two cities, just as in Tuscany, the sober neoclassical style was linked to the reformism of the ruling Habsburg enlightened monarchs. Nevertheless, the Rococo style remained very much popular in Italy until the Napoleonic regimes, which brought a new archaeological classicism, embraced as a political statement by young, progressive, urban Italians with republican leanings.[ according to whom? ]

The shift to neoclassical architecture is conventionally dated to the 1750s. It first gained influence in England and France; in England, Sir William Hamilton's excavations at Pompeii and other sites, the influence of the Grand Tour, and the work of William Chambers and Robert Adam, was pivotal in this regard. In France, the movement was propelled by a generation of French art students trained in Rome, and was influenced by the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. The style was also adopted by progressive circles in other countries such as Sweden and Russia.

International neoclassical architecture was exemplified in Karl Friedrich Schinkel's buildings, especially the Altes Museum in Berlin, Sir John Soane's Bank of England in London and the newly built White House and Capitol in Washington, D.C. of the nascent American Republic. The style was international. The Baltimore Basilica, which was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1806, is considered one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in the world.

A second neoclassic wave, more severe, more studied and more consciously archaeological, is associated with the height of the First French Empire. In France, the first phase of neoclassicism was expressed in the Louis XVI style, and the second in the styles called Directoire and Empire.

In the decorative arts, neoclassicism is exemplified in French furniture of the Empire style; the English furniture of Chippendale, George Hepplewhite and Robert Adam, Wedgwood's bas reliefs and "black basaltes" vases, and the Biedermeier furniture of Austria. The Scottish architect Charles Cameron created palatial Italianate interiors for the German-born Catherine II the Great in St. Petersburg. [4]

Interior design

Chateau de Malmaison, 1800, room for the Empress Josephine, on the cusp between Directoire and Empire style Chateau de Malmaison - Appartement de Josephine 003.jpg
Château de Malmaison, 1800, room for the Empress Joséphine, on the cusp between Directoire and Empire style

Indoors, neoclassicism made a discovery of the genuine classic interior, inspired by the rediscoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum. These had begun in the late 1740s, but only achieved a wide audience in the 1760s, with the first luxurious volumes of tightly controlled distribution of Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte (The Antiquities of Herculaneum Exposed). The antiquities of Herculaneum showed that even the most classicising interiors of the Baroque, or the most "Roman" rooms of William Kent were based on basilica and temple exterior architecture turned outside in, hence their often bombastic appearance to modern eyes: pedimented window frames turned into gilded mirrors, fireplaces topped with temple fronts.

The new interiors sought to recreate an authentically Roman and genuinely interior vocabulary. Techniques employed in the style included flatter, lighter motifs, sculpted in low frieze-like relief or painted in monotones en camaïeu ("like cameos"), isolated medallions or vases or busts or bucrania or other motifs, suspended on swags of laurel or ribbon, with slender arabesques against backgrounds, perhaps, of "Pompeiian red" or pale tints, or stone colours. The style in France was initially a Parisian style, the goût grec ("Greek taste"), not a court style; when Louis XVI acceded to the throne in 1774, Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, brought the Louis XVI style to court.

However, there was no real attempt to employ the basic forms of Roman furniture until around the turn of the century, and furniture-makers were more likely to borrow from ancient architecture, just as silversmiths were more likely to take from ancient pottery and stone-carving than metalwork: "Designers and craftsmen ... seem to have taken an almost perverse pleasure in transferring motifs from one medium to another". [5]

A new phase in neoclassical design was inaugurated by Robert and James Adam, who travelled in Italy and Dalmatia in the 1750s, observing the ruins of the classical world. On their return to Britain, they published a book entitled The Works in Architecture in installments between 1773 and 1779. This book of engraved designs made the Adam style available throughout Europe. The Adam brothers aimed to simplify the Rococo and Baroque styles which had been fashionable in the preceding decades, to bring what they felt to be a lighter and more elegant feel to Georgian houses. The Works in Architecture illustrated the main buildings the Adam brothers had worked on and crucially documented the interiors, furniture and fittings, designed by the Adams.

Greek Revival

Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg (Russia) Saint Isaac's Cathedral in SPB.jpeg
Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg (Russia)

From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the medium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism, the Greek Revival. There was little to no direct knowledge of Greek civilization before the middle of the 18th century in Western Europe, when an expedition funded by the Society of Dilettanti in 1751 and led by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett began serious archaeological enquiry. Stuart was commissioned after his return from Greece by George Lyttelton to produce the first Greek building in England, the garden temple at Hagley Hall (1758–59). [6] A number of British architects in the second half of the century took up the expressive challenge of the Doric from their aristocratic patrons, including Joseph Bonomi and John Soane, but it was to remain the private enthusiasm of connoisseurs up to the first decade of the 19th century.

Designed by Cass Gilbert, the PNC Tower in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) is a prime example of a neoclassical skyscraper with an elaborate Hellenic architecture in the upper portion of the tower PNC Tower Cincinnati - Close-up view.jpg
Designed by Cass Gilbert, the PNC Tower in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) is a prime example of a neoclassical skyscraper with an elaborate Hellenic architecture in the upper portion of the tower

Seen in its wider social context, Greek Revival architecture sounded a new note of sobriety and restraint in public buildings in Britain around 1800 as an assertion of nationalism attendant on the Act of Union, the Napoleonic Wars, and the clamour for political reform. It was to be William Wilkins's winning design for the public competition for Downing College, Cambridge that announced the Greek style was to be the dominant idiom in architecture. Wilkins and Robert Smirke went on to build some of the most important buildings of the era, including the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (1808–09), the General Post Office (1824–1829) and the British Museum (1823–1848), Wilkins University College London (1826–1830) and the National Gallery (1832–1838). In Scotland, Thomas Hamilton (1784–1858), in collaboration with the artists Andrew Wilson (1780–1848) and Hugh William Williams (1773–1829) created monuments and buildings of international significance; the Burns Monument at Alloway (1818) and the (Royal) High School in Edinburgh (1823–1829).

At the same time the Empire style in France was a more grandiose wave of neoclassicism in architecture and the decorative arts. Mainly based on Imperial Roman styles, it originated in, and took its name from, the rule of Napoleon I in the First French Empire, where it was intended to idealize Napoleon's leadership and the French state. The style corresponds to the more bourgeois Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Federal style in the United States, the Regency style in Britain, and the Napoleonstil in Sweden. According to the art historian Hugh Honour "so far from being, as is sometimes supposed, the culmination of the Neo-classical movement, the Empire marks its rapid decline and transformation back once more into a mere antique revival, drained of all the high-minded ideas and force of conviction that had inspired its masterpieces". [7]

Neoclassicism continued to be a major force in academic art through the 19th century and beyond—a constant antithesis to Romanticism or Gothic Revivals—although from the late 19th century on it had often been considered anti-modern, or even reactionary, in influential critical circles.[ who? ] The centres of several European cities, notably St Petersburg and Munich, came to look much like museums of Neoclassical architecture.


A. Rinaldi. The White hall of Gatchina Palace from the 1760s. An early example of the Italianate neoclassical interior design in Russian architecture. The White hall of the Gatchina palace.jpg
A. Rinaldi. The White hall of Gatchina Palace from the 1760s. An early example of the Italianate neoclassical interior design in Russian architecture.

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. Its clearly articulated individual features were isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves.

The L'Enfant Plan for Washington, D.C., as revised by Andrew Ellicott in 1792. L'Enfant plan.jpg
The L'Enfant Plan for Washington, D.C., as revised by Andrew Ellicott in 1792.

Neoclassicism also influenced city planning; the ancient Romans had used a consolidated scheme for city planning for both defence and civil convenience, however, the roots of this scheme go back to even older civilizations. At its most basic, the grid system of streets, a central forum with city services, two main slightly wider boulevards, and the occasional diagonal street were characteristic of the very logical and orderly Roman design. Ancient façades and building layouts were oriented to these city design patterns and they tended to work in proportion with the importance of public buildings.

Many of these urban planning patterns found their way into the first modern planned cities of the 18th century. Exceptional examples include Karlsruhe and Washington, D.C. Not all planned cities and planned neighbourhoods are designed on neoclassical principles, however. Opposing models may be found in Modernist designs exemplified by Brasília, the Garden city movement, levittowns, and new urbanism.


The central courtyard of Sir William Chambers' Somerset House in London. Somerset House.jpg
The central courtyard of Sir William Chambers' Somerset House in London.

From the middle of the 18th century, exploration and publication changed the course of British architecture towards a purer vision of the Ancient Greco-Roman ideal. James 'Athenian' Stuart's work The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece was very influential in this regard, as were Robert Wood's Palmyra and Baalbec. A combination of simple forms and high levels of enrichment was adopted by the majority of contemporary British architects and designers. The revolution begun by Stuart was soon to be eclipsed by the work of the Adam Brothers, James Wyatt, Sir William Chambers, George Dance, James Gandon and provincially based architects such as John Carr and Thomas Harrison of Chester.

Sir Edwin Lutyen's Britannic House in London (1925) EH1064691 Lutyens House 05.jpg
Sir Edwin Lutyen's Britannic House in London (1925)

In the early 20th century, the writings of Albert Richardson were responsible for a re-awakening of interest in pure neoclassical design. Vincent Harris (compare Harris's colonnaded and domed interior of Manchester Central Reference Library to the colonnaded and domed interior by John Carr and R R Duke), Bradshaw Gass & Hope and Percy Thomas were among those who designed public buildings in the neoclassical style in the interwar period. In the British Raj in India, Sir Edwin Lutyens' monumental city planning for New Delhi marked the sunset of neoclassicism. In Scotland and the north of England, where the Gothic Revival was less strong, architects continued to develop the neoclassical style of William Henry Playfair. The works of Cuthbert Brodrick and Alexander Thomson show that by the end of the 19th century the results could be powerful and eccentric.


Saint Louis church in La Roche-sur-Yon 1812/1830 Eglise Saint-Louis de La Roche-sur-Yon depuis l'orgue.JPG
Saint Louis church in La Roche-sur-Yon 1812/1830

The first phase of neoclassicism in France is expressed in the Style Louis XV of architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel (Petit Trianon, 1762–68); the second phase, in the styles called Directoire and Empire, might be characterized by Jean Chalgrin's severe astylar Arc de Triomphe (designed in 1806). In England the two phases might be characterized first by the structures of Robert Adam, the second by those of Sir John Soane. The interior style in France was initially a Parisian style, the "Goût grec" ("Greek style") not a court style. Only when the young king acceded to the throne in 1774 did Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, bring the Louis XVI style to court.

Chateau de Montmusard (1765), by Charles de Wailly. Wailly - Chateau de Montmusard - 3.jpg
Château de Montmusard (1765), by Charles de Wailly.

Many early 19th-century neoclassical architects were influenced by the drawings and projects of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicolas Ledoux. The many graphite drawings of Boullée and his students depict spare geometrical architecture that emulates the eternality of the universe. There are links between Boullée's ideas and Edmund Burke's conception of the sublime. Ledoux addressed the concept of architectural character, maintaining that a building should immediately communicate its function to the viewer: taken literally such ideas give rise to architecture parlante ("speaking architecture").

From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the medium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism that is called the Greek Revival. Although several European cities – notably St Petersburg, Athens, Berlin and Munich – were transformed into veritable museums of Greek revival architecture, the Greek Revival in France was never popular with either the state or the public.

What little there was, started with Charles de Wailly's crypt in the church of Saint-Gilles-Saint-Leu (1773–80), and Ledoux's Barrière des Bonshommes (1785–89). First-hand evidence of Greek architecture was of very little importance to the French, due to the influence of Marc-Antoine Laugier's doctrines that sought to discern the principles of the Greeks instead of their mere practices. It would take until Labrouste's Neo-Grec of the second Empire for the Greek revival to flower briefly in France.


After the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece in 1832, the architecture of Greece was mostly influenced by the Neoclassical architecture. For Athens, the first King of Greece, Otto I, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan. The Old Royal Palace was the first important public building to be built, between 1836 and 1843. Later in the mid and late 19th century, Theophil von Hansen and Ernst Ziller took part in the construction of many neoclassical buildings. Theophil von Hansen designed his first building, the National Observatory of Athens and two of the three contiguous buildings forming the so-called "Athens Classical Trilogy", namely the Academy of Athens (1859) and the National Library of Greece (1888), the third building of the trilogy being the National and Capodistrian University of Athens (1843), which was designed by his brother Christian Hansen. Also he designed the Zappeion Hall (1888). Ernst Ziller also designed many private mansions in the centre of Athens which gradually became public, usually through donations, such the mansion of Heinrich Schliemann, Iliou Melathron (1880). The city of Nauplio is also an important example of Neoclassical Architecture along with the island of Poros.


Cathedral of Vac by I. M. A. Ganneval, 1762-1777 Cathedral, Vac.jpg
Cathedral of Vác by I. M. A. Ganneval, 1762–1777

The earliest examples of neoclassical architecture in Hungary may be found in Vác. In this town the triumphal arch and the neoclassical façade of the Baroque Cathedral were designed by the French architect Isidor Marcellus Amandus Ganneval (Isidore Canevale) in the 1760s. Also the work of a French architect Charles Moreau is the garden façade of the Esterházy Palace (1797–1805) in Kismarton (today Eisenstadt in Austria).

Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest by William Tierney Clark and Adam Clark, 1840-1849 Budapest zamek widok na Most Lancuchowy.jpg
Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest by William Tierney Clark and Adam Clark, 1840-1849

The two principal architects of Neoclassicism in Hungary were Mihály Pollack and József Hild. Pollack's major work is the Hungarian National Museum (1837–1844). Hild is famous for his designs for the Cathedral of Eger and Esztergom. The Reformed Great Church of Debrecen is an outstanding example of the many Protestant churches that were built in the first half of the 19th century. This was the time of the first iron structures in Hungarian architecture, the most important of which is the Chain Bridge (Budapest) by William Tierney Clark.


The Rotunda of Mosta, Malta, which was built between 1833 and 1860 Malta - Mosta - Triq il-Kbira + Rotunda 01 ies.jpg
The Rotunda of Mosta, Malta, which was built between 1833 and 1860

Neoclassical architecture was introduced in Malta in the late 18th century, during the final years of Hospitaller rule. Early examples include the Bibliotheca (1786), [8] the De Rohan Arch (1798) [9] and the Hompesch Gate (1801). [10] However, neoclassical architecture only became popular in Malta following the establishment of British rule in the early 19th century. In 1814, a neoclassical portico decorated with the British coat of arms was added to the Main Guard building so as to serve as a symbol of British Malta. Other 19th century neoclassical buildings include the Monument to Sir Alexander Ball (1810), RNH Bighi (1832), St Paul's Pro-Cathedral (1844), the Rotunda of Mosta (1860) and the now-destroyed Royal Opera House (1866). [11]

Neoclassicism gave way to other architectural styles by the late 19th century. Few buildings were built in the neoclassical style during the 20th century, such as the Domvs Romana museum (1922), [12] and the Courts of Justice building in Valletta (1965–71). [13]

New Zealand

Robert Lawson's 1871 Bank of New South Wales building (now an art gallery) in Oamaru, New Zealand Bank of New South Wales Oamaru 1.jpg
Robert Lawson's 1871 Bank of New South Wales building (now an art gallery) in Oamaru, New Zealand

The influx of wealth from the discovery of gold in the South Island region of Otago in 1861 led to the rapid growth of the cities of Dunedin and Christchurch and commercial towns such as Oamaru and Timaru. The combination of new wealth and commerce and a sudden increase of population from overseas prospectors led to a boom in imposing architecture, often built using hard basalt rock faced with the easily sculpted but less durable local limestone, Oamaru stone. Understandably, these centres, on the east coast in the southern and central South Island, saw a substantial number of neoclassical building designed and erected, with principal architects including R. A. Lawson, F. W. Petre, and Louis Boldoni.

Major neoclassical buildings in southern New Zealand include Petre's Renaissance-inspired Christchurch Basilica, Palladian-inspired St Patrick's Basilica in Oamaru, and the neo-Byzantine Sacred Heart Basilica in Timaru; George Troup's Flemish-influenced Dunedin Railway Station; and civic and commercial buildings by Lawson in Dunedin and Oamaru. Both Lawson and Christchurch-based architect Benjamin Mountfort frequently mixed Neoclassical and Neo-Gothic elements in their designs.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The centre of Polish Neoclassicism was Warsaw under the rule of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Vilnius University was another important centre of the Neoclassical architecture in Europe, led by notable professors of architecture Marcin Knackfus, Laurynas Gucevicius and Karol Podczaszyński. The style was expressed in the shape of main public buildings, such as the University's Observatory, Vilnius Cathedral and the town hall.

The best-known architects and artists, who worked in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were Dominik Merlini, Jan Chrystian Kamsetzer, Szymon Bogumił Zug, Jakub Kubicki, Antonio Corazzi, Efraim Szreger, Chrystian Piotr Aigner and Bertel Thorvaldsen.


Russian Orthodox church of Our Lady of Kazan near Lake Baikal in Siberia (built in 1816). Kazanskaia tserkov' gjctkjr Ntkmvf.jpg
Russian Orthodox church of Our Lady of Kazan near Lake Baikal in Siberia (built in 1816).

In the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century, neoclassical architecture was equal to Saint Petersburg architecture because this style was specific for a huge number of buildings in the city. Catherine the Great adopted the style during her reign by allowing architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe to build the Old Hermitage and the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg. [3]

In the Soviet Union (1917–1991), neoclassical architecture was very popular among the political elite, as it effectively expressed state power and a vast array of neoclassical building was erected all over the country.

Soviet neoclassical architecture was exported to other socialist countries of the Eastern Bloc, as a gift from the Soviet Union. Examples of this include the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw, Poland and the Shanghai International Convention Center in Shanghai, China.


Prado Museum in Madrid, by Juan de Villanueva Museo del Prado 2016 (25185969599).jpg
Prado Museum in Madrid, by Juan de Villanueva

Spanish Neoclassicism was exemplified by the work of Juan de Villanueva, who adapted Burke's theories of beauty and the sublime to the requirements of Spanish climate and history. He built the Prado Museum, that combined three functions: an academy, an auditorium, and a museum in one building with three separate entrances.

This was part of the ambitious program of Charles III, who intended to make Madrid the Capital of the Arts and Sciences. Very close to the museum, Villanueva built the Royal Observatory of Madrid. He also designed several summer houses for the kings in El Escorial and Aranjuez and reconstructed the Plaza Mayor, Madrid, among other important works. Villanueva's pupils expanded the Neoclassical style in Spain.


Neoclassical architecture became a symbol of national pride during the 18th century in Germany, in what was then Prussia. Architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel built many notable buildings in this style including the Altes Museum in Berlin. While the city remained dominated by Baroque city planning, his architecture and functional style provided the city with a distinctly neoclassical center.

Altes Museum in Berlin (finished in 1830) Exterior views of the Altes Museum Berlin.jpg
Altes Museum in Berlin (finished in 1830)

Schinkel's work is very comparable to Neoclassical architecture in Britain since it is where he drew much of his inspiration from. He made trips to observe the buildings and develop his functional style. [3]

The Third Reich

Neoclassical architecture was the preferred style by the leaders of the National Socialist movement in the Third Reich, especially admired by Adolf Hitler himself. Hitler commissioned his favourite architect, Albert Speer, to plan a re-design of Berlin as a city comprising imposing neoclassical structures, which would be renamed as Welthauptstadt Germania, the centrepiece of Hitler's Thousand Year Reich.

These plans never came to fruition due to the eventual downfall of Nazi Germany and the suicide of its leader. [14]

United States

The Lincoln Memorial, an early 20th century example of American Renaissance neoclassical architecture. Aerial view of Lincoln Memorial - east side EDIT.jpeg
The Lincoln Memorial, an early 20th century example of American Renaissance neoclassical architecture.

In the new republic, Robert Adam's neoclassical manner was adapted for the local late 18th and early 19th-century style, called "Federal architecture". One of the pioneers of this style was English-born Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who is often noted as one of America's first formally trained professional architects and the father of American architecture. The Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States, is considered by many experts to be Latrobe's masterpiece.

The University of Virginia Rotunda, an example of Neoclassical architecture Thomas Jefferson built on campus. University of Virginia Rotunda.jpg
The University of Virginia Rotunda, an example of Neoclassical architecture Thomas Jefferson built on campus.

Another notable American architect that identified with Federal architecture was Thomas Jefferson. He built many neoclassical buildings including his personal estate Monticello, the Virginia State Capitol, and the University of Virginia. [3]

A second neoclassical manner found in the United States during the 19th century was called "Greek Revival architecture." It differs from Federal architecture as it strictly follows the Greek Idiom, however it was used to describe all buildings of the Neoclassicism period that display classical orders. [2]

The widespread use of neoclassicism in American architecture, as well as by French revolutionary regimes, and the general tenor of rationalism associated with the movement, all created a link between neoclassicism and republicanism and radicalism in much of Europe. The Gothic Revival can be seen as an attempt to present a conservative alternative to neoclassicism.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (1928) Philadephia Museum of Art.jpg
Philadelphia Museum of Art (1928)

In later 19th-century American architecture, neoclassicism was one expression of the American Renaissance movement, ca 1880–1917. Its later manifestation was in Beaux-Arts architecture (1885–1920), and its very last, large public projects in the United States include the Lincoln Memorial (1922), the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. (1937), and the American Museum of Natural History's Roosevelt Memorial (1936).

Today, there is a small revival of Classical Architecture as evidenced by the groups such as The Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. [15] The School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, currently teaches a fully Classical curriculum. [16]

Palacio de Mineria in Mexico, built between 1797-1813 by Spaniard Manuel Tolsa ColegioMineriaDF.JPG
Palacio de Minería in Mexico, built between 1797-1813 by Spaniard Manuel Tolsá

Latin America

Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago in Chile, built between 1753-1799 by Italian Gioacchino Toesca Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago 2012-09-01 10-05-15.jpg
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago in Chile, built between 1753–1799 by Italian Gioacchino Toesca
Imperial Palace of Petropolis in Brazil, built between 1845-1864 by German Julius Friedrich Koeler and Cristoforo Bonini PetropolisMuseuImperial1-CCBYSA.jpg
Imperial Palace of Petrópolis in Brazil, built between 1845–1864 by German Julius Friedrich Koeler and Cristóforo Bonini

To the American empires of Spain and Portugal came the Neoclassical style through projects designed in Europe or locally made by European or Criollo architects trained in the academies of the metropolises.

There are also examples of the adaptation to the local architectural language, which during the previous centuries had made a synthesis or syncretism of the European and pre-Columbian elements in the so-called Colonial Baroque. An example of this is the Cathedral of Tulancingo, Mexico (1754-1788, José Damián Ortiz de Castro). [20]

In Chile, the Palacio de La Moneda (1784–1805) and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago (1753–1799) belong to more Classical criteria, both works by the Italian architect Gioacchino Toesca. [18]

In Mexico, the Palacio de Minería (1797–1813, Manuel Tolsá) [17] and the Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara (1804–1829, by the same architect). [21]

In Ecuador, the Government Palace of Quito (also called Carondelet Palace, 1790–1801, Antonio García). [22]

Already after the independence of Latin America, constructive programs were developed for the new republics. In Colombia, the Capitolio Nacional was built in Bogotá (1847–1926, Thomas Reed, [23] formed at the Berlin Academy), the Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá (1807–1823) [24] under the plans of Friar Domingo de Petrés; in Peru, the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa (1868, Lucas Poblete). [25]

Brazil, which became the seat of the court of the Portuguese monarchy, becoming independent of its metropolis as an Empire of Brazil, also used the resources of architecture for the glorification of political power, and chose to resort to architects trained at the Royal Academy of Paris. At this time belongs the portal of the Academy of Fine Arts of Rio de Janeiro or Imperial Academy (1822) [26] and the Imperial Palace of Petrópolis (1845–1864). [19]

Argentina is another country that seeks to divest itself of its Colonial past, but in the context of reorganizing the country after independence in 1810, it seeks an aspect of power that conveys the presence of the state inspiring respect and devotion, including of course architecture. However, one does not conceive of an image of its own, but introduces the Classical canon, not in the form of a replica of buildings of antiquity, but with a classical predominance and a great influence of French Classicism; which will last until the 20th century. In the cultural sphere, we can see a rush to import European cultural models, to replace the Colonial tradition. It was about denying everything that could remember the stage of subordination to Spain. It is logical that, on this ideological basis, the image offered by the cities was negative and needed to be transformed. [27]


The Keating Millennium Centre at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada, completed in 2001 MillenniumCenterStFX.jpg
The Keating Millennium Centre at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada, completed in 2001

After a lull during the period of modern architectural dominance (roughly post-World War II until the mid-1980s), neoclassicism has seen somewhat of a resurgence. This rebirth can be traced to the movement of New Urbanism and postmodern architecture's embrace of classical elements as ironic, especially in light of the dominance of Modernism. While some continued to work with classicism as ironic, some architects such as Thomas Gordon Smith, began to consider classicism seriously. While some schools had interest in classical architecture, such as the University of Virginia, no school was purely dedicated to classical architecture. In the early 1990s a program in classical architecture was started by Smith and Duncan Stroik at the University of Notre Dame that continues successfully. [28] Programs at the University of Miami, Andrews University, Judson University and The Prince's Foundation for Building Community have trained a number of new classical architects since this resurgence. Today one can find numerous buildings embracing neoclassical style, since a generation of architects trained in this discipline shapes urban planning.

As of the first decade of the 21st century, contemporary neoclassical architecture is usually classed under the umbrella term of New Classical Architecture. Sometimes it is also referred to as Neo-Historicism/Revivalism, Traditionalism or simply neoclassical architecture like the historical style. [29] For sincere traditional-style architecture that sticks to regional architecture, materials and craftsmanship, the term Traditional Architecture (or vernacular) is mostly used. The Driehaus Architecture Prize is awarded to major contributors in the field of 21st century traditional or classical architecture, and comes with a prize money twice as high as that of the modernist Pritzker Prize. [30]

Regional developments

In the United States various contemporary public buildings are built in neoclassical style, with the 2006 Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville being an example.

In Britain a number of architects are active in the neoclassical style. Two new university Libraries, Quinlan Terry's Maitland Robinson Library at Downing College and ADAM Architecture's Sackler Library illustrate that the approach taken can range from the traditional, in the former case, to the unconventional, in the latter case.

In 2010, Prince Charles came under criticism for promoting a classically designed development on the land of the former Chelsea Barracks in London. Writing to the Qatari Royal family (who were funding the development through the property development company Qatari Diar), he condemned the accepted modernist plans, instead advocating a classical approach. His appeal met with success, and the plans were withdrawn. The architecture firm Dixon Jones was asked to draft a new design. [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

Renaissance architecture architectural style

Renaissance architecture is the European architecture of the period between the early 14th and early 16th centuries in different regions, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture. Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Spain, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Classicism art movement; architectural style

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. In its purest form, classicism is an aesthetic attitude dependent on principles based in the culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, with the emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, clarity of structure, perfection, restrained emotion, as well as explicit appeal to the intellect. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint and compression we are simply objecting to the classicism of classic art. A violent emphasis or a sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement would have destroyed those qualities of balance and completeness through which it retained until the present century its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images." Classicism, as Clark noted, implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms, whether in the Western canon that he was examining in The Nude (1956), or the literary Chinese classics or Chinese art, where the revival of classic styles is also a recurring feature.

Greek Revival architecture architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries

The Greek Revival was an architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, predominantly in Northern Europe and the United States. It revived the style of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the Greek temple, with varying degrees of thoroughness and consistency. A product of Hellenism, it may be looked upon as the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture, which had for long mainly drawn from Roman architecture. The term was first used by Charles Robert Cockerell in a lecture he gave as Professor of Architecture to the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 1842.

Neoclassicism Western cultural movement inspired by ancient Greece and Rome

Neoclassicism was a Western cultural movement in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that drew inspiration from the art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born in Rome largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, and continued into the early 19th century, laterally competing with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.

Neo-Grec Neoclassical revival style of the mid-to-late 19th century that was popularized in architecture, the decorative arts, and in painting during Frances Second Empire (1852–1870)

Néo-Grec was a Neoclassical revival style of the mid-to-late 19th century that was popularized in architecture, the decorative arts, and in painting during France's Second Empire, or the reign of Napoleon III (1852–1870). The Néo-Grec vogue took as its starting point the earlier expressions of the Neoclassical style inspired by 18th-century excavations at Pompeii, which resumed in earnest in 1848, and similar excavations at Herculaneum. The style mixed elements of the Graeco-Roman, Pompeian, Adam and Egyptian Revival styles into "a richly eclectic polychrome mélange." "The style enjoyed a vogue in the USA, and had a short-lived impact on interior design in England and elsewhere."

Regency architecture

Regency architecture encompasses classical buildings built in the United Kingdom during the Regency era in the early 19th century when George IV was Prince Regent, and also to earlier and later buildings following the same style. The period coincides with the Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Federal style in the United States and the French Empire style. Regency style is also applied to interior design and decorative arts of the period, typified by elegant furniture and vertically striped wallpaper, and to styles of clothing; for men, as typified by the dandy Beau Brummell, for women the Empire silhouette.

Palladian architecture Style of architecture derived from the work of Venetian Andrea Palladio

Palladian architecture is a European architectural style derived from and inspired by the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). What is recognised as Palladian architecture today is an evolution of his original concepts. Palladio's work was strongly based on the symmetry, perspective, and values of the formal classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. From the 17th century Palladio's interpretation of this classical architecture was adapted as the style known as "Palladianism". It continued to develop until the end of the 18th century.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical architecture:

Adam style neoclassical style of interior design and architecture

The Adam style is an 18th-century neoclassical style of interior design and architecture, as practised by the three Scottish brothers Robert Adam (1728–1792), James Adam (1732–1794) and William Adam, of whom Robert and James were the most widely known.

Architecture of London

London is the largest and capital city of England and the United Kingdom. Founded as the ancient city of Londinium in the first century CE by the Romans as capital of the Roman province of Britannia, London has been an inhabited settlement almost continuously since. After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, the layout of the Roman settlement became the approximate blueprint of the Saxon and medieval city. This ancient core of London is known as the City of London with Westminster, the ancient centre of political power in London, lying to the west. Relatively few structures survive from London's medieval past due to the city's near-total destruction in the Great Fire of 1666, but notable survivors include the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Hall, Guildhall, St James's Palace, Lambeth Palace and a handful of scattered Tudor survivals. After the Great Fire, London was transformed as it was rebuilt and greatly modernised under the direction of the Baroque architect Sir Christopher Wren, with the new Baroque St Paul's Cathedral as its centrepiece. After a period of dramatic expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries, London reached its zenith as the world's largest and populous city from 1831 to 1925, as well as being the capital of the British Empire at its greatest extent and power. In this period London sprawled vastly beyond its historical boundaries, absorbing many formerly rural settlements and creating vast suburbs. The city was also transformed by groundbreaking new infrastructure projects like the West India Docks which affirmed London's status as a major port, a system of canals which included the Regent's Canal, a modern sewage system, some of the world's first intercity railway termini such as Paddington Station, and the world's first underground railway system. These innovations set London apart as the pre-eminent city of the industrial age. After suffering significant destruction during by The Blitz of World War II and a period of economic decline in the post-war period, London is once again a global capital of culture and commerce, with much new development adding to its eclectic cityscape.

Architecture of Italy

Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period or region, due to Italy's division into several city-states until 1861. This has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural designs. Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements, such as the construction of aqueducts, temples and similar structures during ancient Rome, the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement in the late-14th to 16th century, and being the homeland of Palladianism, a style of construction which inspired movements such as that of Neoclassical architecture, and influenced the designs which noblemen built their country houses all over the world, notably in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America during the late-17th to early 20th centuries.

Architecture of Germany

The architecture of Germany has a long, rich and diverse history. Every major European style from Roman to Postmodern is represented, including renowned examples of Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Modern and International Style architecture.

French architecture

French architecture ranks high among France's many accomplishments. Indications of the special importance of architecture in France were the founding of the Academy of Architecture in 1671, the first such institution anywhere in Europe, and the establishment in 1720 of the Prix de Rome in architecture, a competition of national interest, funded by the state, and an honor intensely pursued. If the first period of France's preeminent achievement was the Gothic, and the second, the eighteenth century, the longer tradition of French architecture has always been an esteemed one.

After the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and the following trends of Greek migration to the Diaspora, Greek architecture was concentrated mainly on the Greek Orthodox churches of the Diaspora. These churches, such as other intellectual centres built by Greeks, were used also as a meeting-place. The architectural style of these buildings was heavily influenced by the western European architecture.

Russian neoclassical revival

Russian neoclassical revival was a trend in Russian culture, most pronounced in architecture, that briefly replaced Eclecticism and Art Nouveau as the leading architectural style between the Revolution of 1905 and the outbreak of World War I, coexisting with the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. It is characterized by a merger of new technologies with a moderate application of classical orders and the legacy of the Russian Empire style of the first quarter of the 19th century.

Timeline of Italian architecture timeline

This timeline shows the periods of various architectural styles in the architecture of Italy. Italy's architecture spans almost 3,500 years, from Etruscan and Ancient Roman architecture to Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Fascist, and Italian modern and contemporary architecture.

Maltese Baroque architecture

Maltese Baroque architecture is the form of Baroque architecture that developed in Malta during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the islands were under the rule of the Order of St. John. The Baroque style was introduced in Malta in the early 17th century, possibly by the Bolognese engineer Bontadino de Bontadini during the construction of the Wignacourt Aqueduct. The style became popular in the mid to late 17th century, and it reached its peak during the 18th century, when monumental Baroque structures such as Auberge de Castille were constructed.

Neoclassical architecture in Russia

Neoclassical architecture in Russia developed in the second half of the 18th century, especially after Catherine the Great succeeded to the throne on June 28, 1762, becoming Empress of Russia. Neoclassical architecture developed in many Russian cities, first of all St. Petersburg, which was undergoing its transformation into a modern capital throughout the reign of Catherine II.

This is an alphabetical index of articles related to architecture.

Monumentalism defines the architectural tendencies that during the first half of the twentieth century had as their essential canon the inspiration and connection to classicism and neoclassicism. Critics divide this architecture into two streams: Neo-Baroque and Simplified Neoclassicism.


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  29. Neo-classicist Architecture. Traditionalism. Historicism.
  30. Driehaus Prize for New Classical Architecture at Notre Dame SoA: "Together, the $200,000 Driehaus Prize and the $50,000 Reed Award represent the most significant recognition for classicism in the contemporary built environment"; retained 7 March 2014
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Further reading