History of Architecture Essay

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

Table of contents

  1. Pre-historic
  2. Classical
  3. Medieval
  4. Renaissance
  5. Baroque
  6. Neo-classical
  7. Art deco
  8. Arts and crafts
  9. Modern
  10. Post-modern
  11. Deconstructivist
  12. References


“It has been truly said that protection from the inclemency of the seasons was the mother of architecture and according to Vitruvius, a man in his primitive savage state began to imitate the nests of birds and the lairs of beasts.” – Banister F. Fletcher, (Fletcher, 1905: 1). Materials such as arbors of twigs covered with mud and branches of trees covered with turf were used to form huts and dwellings such as shielings, beehive huts and dome-like structures (Fletcher, 1905: 1).

The tools that pre-historic humans had would have been basic tools like sharp rocks as well as their hands.

An example of a pre-historic element that would be prevalent today is the use of a dome-like structure used on many parliamentary and other buildings, such as the dome on top of the Durban City Hall, used to house government institutions or the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg used as a venue for events.


Classical architecture has many aspects and is largely recognized as being Greek or Roman. These societies were engaged in agriculture as well as military and religious activities. There are various orders of the different architectural styles in this period, namely, Tuscan, Composite, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, which had characteristic elements such as columns, pediments, friezes, architraves, and sculptural decorations, (Hamlin, 1953: 134). The materials used consisted of stone, wood, and marble, usually large in size, placed in such a way to create columns, beams, and roofing structures (Fletcher, 1905: 49).

Some equipment that would have been available to the builders of that age are horses and carts to carry large stones, hammers and chisels, ladders, scrapers for carving, and tools and materials that were used for painting (Hamlin, 1953: 143). They would have also had the use of fire and bronze which in turn would have given them a wide range of tools to use.

This historical period greatly influenced western architecture in which we now use many of the elements such as columns and the roofing structures depicted in many houses such as the residential house in Vanderbijlpark.


Medieval architecture consists of two styles, Romanesque and Gothic, and is strongly influenced by Germany, being the center of the Western Empire, which practiced religion and politics and was faced with snow and inclement weather (Fletcher, 1905: 268). Some characteristic elements of medieval architecture are a framework of piers, buttresses, arches, ribbed vaulting, and tracery, being intricately patterned mullions made of stone, as well as moldings, ornament, and spires (Fletcher, 1905: 269). The materials used included bricks, volcanic stone, Travertine stone, and marble as well as a basic mortar and wood and the first uses of glass.

The equipment that was available to the builders of this period incorporated ladders, tools for sculpting, kilns for producing bricks, and various building apparatus such as hammers, spades, and nails. An example of an element of gothic architecture used in modern times in South Africa is depicted in the picture of the Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet.


The architecture of the Renaissance period was influenced by the influx of artwork and knowledge within the European culture and the rise of noblemen and wealthy citizens (Hamlin, 1953: 323). The architecture of the renaissance period is characterized by elements of grandeur including facades, grand staircases, and arcades, as well as square windows surrounded by architraves and Corinthian-style columns (Hamlin, 1953: 347).

Some materials that were used include iron, bronze, gold, and silver, in situ moldings and carvings, stained glass windows, and the use of concrete, brick, stone, and marble, (Fletcher, 1905: 440). The equipment and tools available to the builders of this period included pulley systems, forges and kilns, sculpting tools, various apparatus for producing and building with concrete, and more specialized cutting tools.

An example of Renaissance-era elements used in today’s buildings is the Iziko Old Town House Museum in Cape Town.


During the baroque period, there were many wars and revolutions, but also greedy leaders and extraordinary wealth (Hamlin, 1953: 421). Baroque architecture while closely related to the style of the renaissance era, focused on the relations between the façade and court and room, in the building up of artistic experiences from approaching the building to exploring what is inside (Hamlin, 1953: 425).

The designs in the historical Baroque period had the advantage of enormous colonial wealth and a variety of specialized tools that had been developed from more sophisticated machinery in the processes of mining and building construction, as well as the emergence of dynamic space planning (Hamlin, 1953: 436).

An example of Baroque architecture influencing design is depicted in the Durban City Hall.


Neo-classical architecture started around the 17th Century with writings that caused an increased interest in Classic Architecture (Fletcher, 1905: 591) as well as the colonial regime which resulted in a number of parliamentary buildings being erected that were to be a symbol of power and wealth, thus the style and grandeur of the classical era, with large structures for the worship of the gods, seemed to be a relevant precedent for such buildings, especially since Greece and Rome had become living symbols of a successful democracy and successful republicanism (Hamlin, 1953: 545).

The materials used in the construction of neo-classical buildings consisted of concrete, marble, clay, copper, and glass. The equipment that was used was a lot more advanced due to the emergence of electricity and electric motors, as well as advancements in the technologies used in construction, such as cement mixers, and advancements in the production of glass.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

An example of neo-classical architecture in South Africa is the Cape Town City Hall in the Western Cape.

Art deco

The Art Deco style of architecture emerged just before the first world war as a new style that incorporated some features from the art nouveau period with the use of reinforced concrete, geometric forms, straight lines, and decorative sculptures involving marble, ceramics, and stucco, being some of the characteristic elements. (Wikipedia, 2019: online).

The materials that were used during this style period were concrete reinforced with steel, glass, colorful paints, as well as steel ornaments.

The equipment that was used when this style was at its peak was advanced due to the technological advancements of that era and incorporated things like pulley lifts, cranes, steel scaffolding as well as various power tools due to the advancement of electrical power.

An example of Art Deco-style architecture in South Africa is the Surrey Mansions located in Durban.

Arts and crafts

The Arts and Crafts period in architecture was inspired by the incorporation of the philosophies of craftsmanship into the design of buildings, which had such characteristic elements as pergolas, garden gates, hedges, terraces, fireplaces and chimneys, guest halls and pathways or sunken gardens (Curtis, 1982: 51). An example of an Arts and Crafts house would include such things as ”a low front gate set within a lantern-hung entry pergola. Stone and brick masonry piers match posts and low walls behind battened wood fencing” – Paul Duchscherer (Duchscherer, 2007: 74).

The materials used are bricks, wood, glass, and different types of stone and other natural elements, with equipment like hammers, nails, screws, and other tools used for craftsmanship as well as general construction tools used in the 20th Century.

An example of an Arts and Crafts House is depicted in the picture provided of a house in Los Altos, California.


The modern style of architecture began in response to the process of industrialization and urbanization and is described “to employ industrial production methods, modern materials and functional designs to promote inexpensive architecture available to all citizens. The international impact of modernism on urban design was heightened by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, who, in response to the challenge of the automobile age, conceptualized the city as a ‘machine for living.” – Michael Pacione (Pacione, 2009: 158).

Some of the materials used during this period were high-pressure concrete, plywood, plastics, and glass. Builders had advanced equipment and tools such as portable concrete mixing trucks, elevators, cranes, and welders.

An example of modern architecture is depicted in the proposed modern house in South Africa.


The post-modern period of architecture replaced the formal and functional shapes and spaces of modern architecture with diverse aesthetics (Wikipedia, 2019: online). Post-modern architecture has many characteristic elements, as it draws various precedents from previous architectural styles, classical and modern, but uses them in such a way to create a new image that can differ greatly from the surrounding context, however, post-modern buildings can also blend into their environment (Hollingsworth, 1988: 156).

The materials and equipment used in this period are much more advanced and involve elements such as reinforced glass, specialized metals such as stainless steel and reinforced concrete as well as state-of-the-art construction vehicles and apparatus.

An example of post-modern architecture in South Africa is the AFGRI Head Office in Centurion.


Deconstructivist architecture is characterized by the manipulation of a structure's surfaces and the distortion and fragmentation of certain elements of the design (Wikipedia, 2019: online). The essence of deconstructivism is depicted in the quote “The house is a complex construction with a deliberately incomplete, untamed feel.” – Heinrich Klotz (Klotz, 1989: 312).

The materials and equipment used in deconstructivist construction incorporate all the materials in the previous periods of architecture, including all the latest advancements in construction materials and tools used for construction.

An example of deconstructivist architecture is shown in a residential house in Bedfordview, South Africa.


  1. Fletcher, B.F. 1905. History of Architecture: on the comparative method. 5th Edition. London: B.T. Batsford.
  2. Hamlin, T. 1953. Architecture Through The Ages. Revised Edition. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
  3. Wikipedia. 2019. History of Architecture. [online]. Available from: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_architecture> [Accessed 12 August 2019].
  4. Curtis, W.J.R. 1982. Modern Architecture: since 1900. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited.
  5. Duchscherer, P. 2007. One Route to a Dream House. Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival. Summer 2007, p.71.
  6. Pacione, M. 2009. Urban Geography: A Global Perspective. 3rd edition. New York: Taylor & Francis.
  7. Hollingsworth, M. 1988. The architecture of the 20th Century. London: Bison Books Ltd.
  8. Klotz, H. 1989. 20th Century Architecture. London: Academy Group Limited.
Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

History of Architecture Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/history-of-architecture-essay/
“History of Architecture Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/history-of-architecture-essay/
History of Architecture Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/history-of-architecture-essay/> [Accessed 18 Apr. 2024].
History of Architecture Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Apr 18]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/history-of-architecture-essay/

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via support@edubirdie.com.

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.