Art is a mirror to a certain epoch and culture of a particular nation. Architecture as a form of art tells us a lot about the life, traditions and values of people who create it. It depicts characteristic features and contributions of particular peoples. It is a book which can be read over a thousand years or more.
Architecture as a form of art has undergone progressive evolution from the times of Paleolithic art till contemporaneity, from the buildings of irregular form to refined and well-designed structures. The birth of monumental stone architecture took place during the Neolythic period. Here we should mention the Jericho.
Our journey to the history of architecture will start in the ancient Sumer. The Sumerians were people who worshipped various gods. The architecture of this period tells us a lot about the way of life and customs of the Sumerians. The main architectural building for them was a temple, the centre of their spiritual life. It was a city in the city where the scribes and priests took care of the religious, commercial and administrative affairs. The most prominent architectural building of this period is the White Temple at Uruk city. It is in a good condition despite its age.
Architecture is not a numb form of art. On the contrary, there is so much information in it about the culture and history of that day people. Moreover, the Sumerians might have been the first to use paintings to tell a story. Here we should mention Warka.
One of the most significant periods in the history of Mesopotamia was the Third Dynasty of Ur (Kleiner 27). It is a period of battles between the Gutians and Sumerians for the land of Mesopotamia. During this period of time one of the most significant architectural monuments of Mesopotamia was built. It was a Ziggurat at Ur. It was a majestic building of 50 feet high made of baked bricks.
The architecture of the first half of the first millennium BCE tells us a lot of interesting as well. The Assyrians were the people who ruled on the land which stretched from the Tigris River till the Nile, and from the Persian Gulf till the Asia Minor. Actually, the Royal citadel of Sargon emphasizes the greatness and warlike character of the Assyrian kings. Furthermore, the citadel had the ziggurat and six sanctuaries for different gods (31). The ziggurat at Dur Sharrukin had several stories. It tells us about the Sumerian bent-axis plan. The architecture, sculpture and paintings prove that the Assyrians were warriors, that their kings were grandiose and fearless on the battlefields. Moreover, the history is described as well. The palaces of the kings were decorated with numerous reliefs, which are really eloquent and verbose. The palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Kalhu is one of them (Kleiner 32).
The Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods introduced into the world’s art the monumental architecture for the dead. The Egyptians had a tradition to bury the dead in stone mastabas in pyramids. However, this practice survived not for a long period of time as such burials attracted thieves. Later, mastabas were replaced by tombs decorated with frescoes and relief sculptures. During the New Kingdom Period the architecture still was seen developing in funerary direction. Thus, these mortuary temples showed the wealth of its kings. Here we should mention Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri and Ramses II’s mortuary temple.
Speaking about the Persian art and architecture, we cannot but mention the citadel at Persepolis. It is a complex of buildings used for the ceremonies and administrative affairs. Even in ruins it looks magnificent. Moreover, it is necessary to note that thanks to the Babylonians today we have one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the Ishtar Gate.
One of the most significant contributions into the world’s culture and history made Greeks. Their beautiful sculpture, architecture and pottery united their principle idea of arête. The centre of Greek culture was the Athens. It united two important features: high level of intellectual and physical skills. Greeks introduced the notion “demos”, which we often use nowadays.
The origin of a well-known Greek Temple A is in the East. Moreover, it is not simply a temple, but the first example of a Greek building using sculptured decorations. Another legendary architectural masterpiece in Greek art was the labyrinth built by the Daedalus (Kleiner 91). It became later famous in many stories and legends. Unfortunately, there are a few examples of the Greek architecture which survived. Many buildings were simply ruined, because they were made of wood and mud brick (Kleiner 95). However, later Greek architecture was built of more permanent building materials. Among a well-known Greek architectural pieces are: a Stone Temple at Prinias and the Cretan temple. Furthermore, it was typical of the Greek to use temple ornaments to show their devotion to gods. For instance, the Temple of Hera was one of them. Another noticeable monument was the Temple of Artemis also decorated with sculpture.
Apart from temples, Greeks also built incredibly beautiful treasuries. These were small buildings where Greek stored their votive offerings. Moreover, Athens made such treasuries even more luxurious. The Siphian Treasury had caryatids, colorful paintings on it and frieze.
The Classical Period in the Greek art brings changes and innovations into architecture. It becomes more compact and less impressive. It can be seen when comparing the Temple of Hera II and the Temple of Aphaia. However, the latter is more refined. The columns are slender and smooth. There are lots of paintings depicting different historic episodes like the battle of Greeks and Trojans.
The Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Hera II were impressive architectural monuments of the Classic period. One of the main features of the Temple of Zeus is that it depicts the twelve labors of Heracles (Kleiner 106). The Temple of Athena Parthenos is another remarkable architectural building. It is a real miracle that these buildings have survived and experienced several reconstructions and erosion. Panthenon was another Greeks’ attempt for perfection. They managed to build such unique architectural masterpieces due to their well-organized design. However, there might have been some problems with mathematical calculations as there were lots of deviations from the correct horizontal and vertical lines. Moreover, the Panthenon temple was decorated with beautiful sculptures. Finally, there even was one of the most expensive gold-and-ivory statue of Athena Panthenos (Kleiner 114).
Finally, the era of innovations in Greece started with the Late Classical period. The Theater of Epidauros was not only a place for entertainment, but also for religious procedures. The design of the theater was rather simple, but functional. It could place lots of spectators. Speaking about the Late Classical period, we cannot but mention the Corinthian Capital. It was mainly used for decorations. But, the Corinthian Capital was functional and helpful as solved many building problems.
To sum up, architecture as other forms of art depict thoughts, values, traditions and way of life of those peoples who lived in that epoch. Moreover, it was typical to depict heroic battles in painting. Many walls in different temples and palaces may tell us a lot about the history of that day humanity. Architecture is not simply a stone in a particular form. It is a vision of life and the world in general. It is a unique form of art which is capable of storing the secrets and thoughts of millions of people. It may be majestic or demure, refined or rough. Still, it provokes thinking and imagination to work.