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Ancient Greek Architecture – 3 Classical Orders

The columns and temples are significant architectural creations of Ancient Greek Architecture. Balance and proportions were the concepts of Architectural beauty. Parthenon in Athens is recognized as a special achievement by the Greeks. Ancient Greeks adopted the post and lintel system from Egyptian models. However, Greeks have their own distinct art and architecture.

900BC to 1st Century AD

Ancient Greek Architecture is known for

  • Temples
  • Columns
  • Open Air Theatre

Key Features of Greek Architecture

  • Balance, symmetry, and sense of proportion
  • Materials – sun-dried bricks, stone masonry, wooden roofs
  • Sculptures and artistic characters.
  • Human figures as decorative motifs
  • Richly decorated palaces.
  • Massive Fortifications
  • Stone built temples
  • Paintings with floral and motifs of sea life.
  • Belief in the worship of Nature
  • Decorating cornices and Pediments
  • Colonnades surrounding courtyards

Columns/Classical Orders

The design and architecture of the columns were greatly influenced by Egyptian Architecture. The Greeks designed the columns with specific design principles that were symmetric, balanced, proportionate, and clear in a certain order. They divided the column styles into three different orders. The structure, usage, proportion, and decoration were given equal importance.

These are known as “classical orders” or “Orders of Architecture”.

  • Ionic Columns
    • Volutes are located at the base and height of the columns. Capitals featured two swirling volutes. The shafts of the columns can be fluted ( having vertical grooves or flutes) or plain.
    • The base is designed as stacked disks.
    • Typically used for upper levels.
  • Corinthian columns
    • The design and proportions give a sense of height.
    • The capital is adorned with flowers and leaves which protrude outside.
    • The shaft of the columns is fluted or grooved.
    • Typically used for the upper levels.
  • Doric columns
    • The shafts of columns were grooved and wider at the bottom for structural support.
    • Thicker than other tow-column styles
    • Typically used in lower levels in multi-story buildings as they were thicker.
Greek Architecture
Image source – ozgeustun.wordpress.com

Greek Architecture Temples

The buildings or structures of the temples were raised on high platforms so that the grandeur, proportions, aesthetic values, and effects of light can be viewed from different angles. Sculptures, decoration, and sculptural entities with the landscape were distinct features of Greek Architecture. Also on hilltops, due to climate considerations.

The stone and surfaces were smooth and ornately sculptured to reflect the light from the Sun and create shadows as per the changes thought-out the day.

  • Exteriors – Designed as a visual focus
  • Theatres – Naturally occurring sloping sites
  • Colonnades – Surrounding courtyards provided shelter
  • Propylon or porches were the entrances to the temple sanctuaries.


Ancient Greek Architecture is notable for temples, of which Parthenon stands as a fine example. It stands as a symbol of the clarity and precision of ancient Greek architecture. Parthenon, the largest building of Ancient Greek Architecture was dominating the hill and the temple was dedicated to Athena Parthenos – goddess of war and wisdom. It is exceptional for several reasons – large size, huge columns, and proportion.

Parthenon – Image source: Wikipedia

Other Buildings

The earliest domestic buildings were of several distinct types and were simple structures with two rooms, an open porch, and a gable. They were constructed with stones, sun-dried bricks, clay or plaster, fibrous materials- straw, seaweed, and tiles for roofs.

Smaller houses – wide passages or “pastas” were present in the center of the houses admitting light and air into the house that covers the whole length of the house.

Larger houses – Peristyle(courtyards) were in the center of the house and the other rooms surrounding it.

Town planning was a significant consideration in the development of the town and had careful planning with a regular grid of paved streets, and a central market with a surrounding colonnade. Public fountains were also present. Open-air theatres were for public meetings and other performances.

See also

Egyptian Architecture – https://thearchspace.com/ancient-egyptian-architecture/

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