Essential Architecture-  Search by style

Neoclassical architecture

Neoclassical architecture    
NeoClassical (European) 18th-19th cent.
Classical Revival 1790-1830
Jeffersonian Classicism 1790-1830
Roman Classicism 1790-1830

NeoGrec / Greek Revival  1820-1860
Victorian Academic Classical
Victorian Free Classical
Beaux-Arts Classical Revival 1876 to 1930
Neoclassicism / Classical Revival 1900-1940
Stripped Classical  1900-1945
Fascist Stripped Classical (German) 1933-1944
Rationalist-Fascist Architecture (Italian Fascist)
Stalinist Neoclassical Architecture 1933–1955
Post War Stripped Classical
Postmodern architecture 1980s
Contemporary Neoclassical (1990-present)
Prado Museum in Madrid, by Juan de Villanueva Karl Friedrich Schinkel's Elisabethkirche in Berlin (1832-1834) Finnish towns were built of wood, often in the Neoclassical style. (Studio of W Runeberg on Porvoo)
At the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (1822-26), Playfair employs a Greek Doric octastyle portico The Alexander Column in Palace Square, St Petersburg, Russia, viewed from an open window of the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace. The Cathedral of Vilnius (1783), by Laurynas Gucevičius
Pulteney Bridge, Bath, England, by Robert Adam Palace of Soviets - arguably the most famous Soviet neoclassical building never to have been realized. The magnificent Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Moscow) was demolished in 1931 to make way for this building; a rebuilt cathedral was inaugurated in 2000. Grass Valley Public Library, (1916), Grass Valley, California
 
Front façade of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland, New Zealand Marynka's Palace in Puławy (1790-1794) by Christian Piotr Aigner  
     
Neoclassical architecture

Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, both as a reaction against the Rococo style of anti-tectonic naturalistic ornament, and an outgrowth of some classicizing features of Late Baroque. In its purest form it is a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece.

Origins

Siegfried Giedion, whose first book (1922) had the suggestive title Late Baroque and Romantic Classicism, asserted later "The Louis XVI style formed in shape and structure the end of late baroque tendencies, with classicism serving as its framework." In the sense that neoclassicism in architecture is evocative and picturesque, a recreation of a distant, lost world, it is, as Giedion suggests, framed within the Romantic sensibility.

Intellectually Neoclassicism was symptomatic of a desire to return to the perceived "purity" of the arts of Rome, the more vague perception ("ideal") of Ancient Greek arts and, to a lesser extent, sixteenth-century Renaissance Classicism, the source for academic Late Baroque.

Many 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 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.

There is an anti-Rococo strain that can be detected in some European architecture of the earlier 18th century, most vividly represented in the Palladian architecture of Georgian Britain and Ireland, but also recognizable in a classicizing vein of Late Baroque architecture in Paris (Perrault's east range of the Louvre), in Berlin, and even in Rome, in Alessandro Galilei's facade for S. Giovanni in Laterano. It is a robust architecture of self-restraint, academically selective now of "the best" Roman models, which were increasingly available for close study through the medium of architectural engravings of measured drawings of surviving Roman architecture.

Development

Neoclassicism first gained influence in Paris, through a generation of French art students trained at the French Academy in Rome and influenced by the presence of Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and in London, through the examples of Paris-trained Sir William Chambers, Clérisseau's pupil Robert Adam and James "Athenian" Stuart, later British architects such as Henry Holland, George Dance, Jr., James Wyatt, Thomas Harrison and Sir John Soane developed the style in Britain. It was quickly adopted by progressive circles in Sweden as well. In Paris, many of the first generation of neoclassical architects received training in the classic French tradition through a series of exhaustive and practical lectures that was offered for decades by Jacques-François Blondel.

At first, in the 1760s and 70s, classicizing decor was grafted onto familiar European forms, as in Gatchina's interiors for Catherine II's lover Count Orlov, designed by an Italian architect with a team of Italian stuccadori (stucco workers). A second neoclassic wave, more severe, more studied (through the medium of engravings) and more consciously archaeological, is associated with the height of the Napoleonic Empire.

In France, the first phase of neoclassicism is expressed in the "Louis XVI style" of architects like 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.

Regional trends

Spain

Spanish Neoclassicism counted with the figure of Juan de Villanueva, who adapted Burke's achievements about the sublime and the beauty to the requirements of Spanish clime and history. He built the Prado Museum, that combined three programs- an academy, an auditorium and a museum- in one building with three separated entrances. This was part of the ambitious program of Charles III, who intended to make Madrid the Capital of Art and Science. Very close to the museum, Villanueva built the Astronomical Observatory. He also designed several summer houses for the kings in El Escorial and Aranjuez and reconstructed the Major Square of Madrid, among other important works. Villanuevas´ pupils expanded the Neoclassical style in Spain.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The center of Polish classicism was Warsaw under the rule of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Vilnius University was another important center of the Neoclassical architecture in the Eastern Europe, lead by notable professors of architecture Marcin Knackfus, Laurynas Gucevičius and Karol Podczaszyński. The style was expressed in the main public buildings, such as the University's Observatory, Cathedral and the town hall of Vilnius. 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, Christian Piotr Aigner and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Other countries

Neoclassical architecture was exemplified in Karl Friedrich Schinkel's buildings, especially the Old Museum in Berlin, Sir John Soane's Bank of England in London and the newly built capitol in Washington, DC. The Scots architect Charles Cameron created palatial Italianate interiors for the German-born Catherine II the Great in St. Petersburg: the style was international. Italy clung to Rococo until the Napoleonic regimes brought the new archaeological classicism, which was embraced as a political statement by young, progressive, urban Italians with republican leanings.

Interior design

Indoors, neoclassicism made a discovery of the genuine Roman interior, inspired by the rediscoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum, which had started 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 Ercolan. The antiquities of Herculaneum showed that even the most classicizing interiors of the Baroque, or the most "Roman" rooms of William Kent were based on basilica and temple exterior architecture, turned outside in: pedimented window frames turned into gilded mirrors, fireplaces topped with temple fronts, now all looking quite bombastic and absurd. The new interiors sought to recreate an authentically Roman and genuinely interior vocabulary, employing 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 colors. The 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 1771 did Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, bring the "Louis XVI" style to court.

Late phase

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. 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. By the mid-19th century, several European cities - notably St Petersburg, Athens, Berlin and Munich - were transformed into veritable museums of Neoclassical architecture.

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 nineteenth century the results could be powerful and eccentric.

In American architecture, neoclassicism was one expression of the American Renaissance movement, ca 1880-1917. One of the pioneers of this style was English-born Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who is often noted as America's first professional architect and the father of American architecture. The Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in America, is considered by many experts to be Latrobe's masterpiece.


The Shanghai International Convention Centre, a prominent example of Soviet (Stalinist Architecture) neoclassical architecture in the People's Republic of China

Its last manifestation was in Beaux-Arts architecture, and its very last, large public projects were the Lincoln Memorial, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History's Roosevelt Memorial.

In the Soviet Union (1917-1989), 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 architects sometimes tended to over-use the elements of classical architecture, resulting in sligthly gaudy-looking buildings, which rendered Soviet neoclassical architecture the derogatory epiteth "wedding cake-architecture". The Soviet neoclassical architecture was also exported to other members of the Soviet block and other socialist countries. Examples of this include the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw, Poland and the Shanghai International Convention Centre in Shanghai, the People's Republic of China.

In Britain, the writings of Albert Richardson were responsible for reawakening an interest in pure neoclassical design in the early twentieth century. Vincent Harris, Bradshaw Gass & Hope and Percy Thomas were among those who designed public buildings in the neoclassical style between the world wars. In the Raj, Sir Edwin Lutyens' monumental city planning for New Delhi marks the glorious sunset of neoclassicism.

 
The neoclassical movement that produced Neoclassical architecture began in the mid-18th century, as a reaction against both the surviving Baroque and Rococo styles, and as a desire to return to the perceived "purity" of the arts of Rome, the more vague perception ("ideal") of Ancient Greek arts (where almost no Western artist had actually been) and, to a lesser extent, 16th century Renaissance Classicism.

There is an anti-Rococo strain that can be detected in some European architecture of the earlier 18th century, most vividly represented in the Palladian architecture of Georgian Britain and Ireland, but also recognizable in a classicizing vein of Late Baroque architecture in Paris (Perrault's east range of the Louvre), in Berlin, and even in Rome, in Alessandro Galilei's facade for S. Giovanni in Laterano. It is a robust architecture of self-restraint, academically selective now of "the best" Roman models.

Neoclassicism first gained influence in Paris, through a generation of French art students trained at the French Academy in Rome and influenced by the presence of Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and in London, through the examples of Paris-trained Sir William Chambers and James "Athenian" Stuart. It was quickly adopted by progressive circles in Sweden as well. In Paris, many of the first generation of neoclassical architects received training in the classic French tradition through a series of exhaustive and practical lectures that was offered for decades by Jacques-François Blondel.

At first, in the 1760s and 70s, classicizing decor was grafted onto familiar European forms, as in Gatchina's interiors for Catherine II's lover Count Orlov, designed by an Italian architect with a team of Italian stuccadori (stucco workers). A second neoclassic wave, more severe, more studied (through the medium of engravings) and more consciously archaeological, is associated with the height of the Napoleonic Empire. In France, the first phase of neoclassicism is expressed in the "Louis XVI style" of architects like Ange-Jacques Gabriel (Petit Trianon, 1762–68); the second phase, in the styles we call "Directoire" or "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.

Spanish Neoclassicism counted with the figure of Juan de Villanueva, who adapted Burke's achievements about the sublime and the beauty to the requirements of Spanish clime and history. He built the Prado Museum, that combined three programs- an academy, an auditorium and a museum- in one building with three separated entrances. This was part of the ambicious program of Charles III, who intended to make Madrid the Capital of Art and Science. Very close to the museum, Villanueva built the Astronomical Observatory. He also designed several summer houses for the kings in El Escorial and Aranjuez and reconstructed the Major Square of Madrid, among other important works. Villanuevas´ pupils expanded the Neoclassical style in Spain.

Italy clung to Rococo until the Napoleonic regimes brought the new archaeological classicism, which was embraced as a political statement by young, progressive, urban Italians with republican leanings.

The center of Polish classicism was Warsaw under the rule of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. 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, Christian Piotr Aigner, Wawrzyniec Gucewicz and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

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 "capitol" in Washington, DC. The Scots architect Charles Cameron created palatial Italianate interiors for the German-born Catherine II the Great in Russian St. Petersburg: the style was international.

Indoors, neoclassicism made a discovery of the genuine Roman interior, inspired by the rediscoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum, which had started 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. The antiquities of Herculaneum showed that even the most classicizing interiors of the Baroque, or the most "Roman" rooms of William Kent were based on basilica and temple exterior architecture, turned outside in: pedimented window frames turned into gilded mirrors, fireplaces topped with temple fronts, now all looking quite bombastic and absurd. The new interiors sought to recreate an authentically Roman and genuinely interior vocabulary, employing 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 colors. The style in France was initially a Parisian style, the "goût Grèc" ("Greek style") not a court style. Only when the young king acceded to the throne in 1771 did Marie Antoinette, his fashion-loving Queen, bring the "Louis XVI" style to court.

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.

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. By the mid-19th century, several European cities - notably St Petersburg and Munich - were transformed into veritable museums of Neoclassical architecture.

In American architecture, neoclassicism was one expression of the American Renaissance Revival movement, ca 1890-1917; its last manifestation was in Beaux-Arts architecture, and its very last, large public projects were the Lincoln Memorial (highly criticised at the time), the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the American Museum of Natural History's Roosevelt Memorial. These were white elephants as they were built. In the British Raj, Sir Edwin Lutyens' monumental city planning for New Delhi marks the glorious sunset of neoclassicism.

References

Grafkapel de Loë in Heerlen (1848), Neoclassical architecture is also used on cemeteries
*Hakan Groth. Neoclassicism in the North

Hugh Honour, Neoclassicism 
David Irwin, Neoclassicism (in series Art and Ideas) (Phaidon, paperback 1997 
Stanislaw Lorentz. Neoclassicism in Poland (Series History of art in Poland) 
Thomas McCormick, 1991. Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the Genesis of Neoclassicism (Architectural History Foundation) 
Mario Praz. On Neoclassicism