Roman Architecture

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

The magic of Rome is turning a corner and discovering a sculpture or building from antiquity. There, amidst the coffee shops and beautifully dressed people, is a piece of history awaiting your discovering. In ancient times philosopher's like Aristotle and Plato didn't refer to architecture as art. In fact, it wasn't until much later that architecture and other areas of design got pushed under the umbrella of art. From this lens, it is fascinating and eye-opening to envision the architecture of Ancient Rome not as art but as utility. When these buildings were created that is precisely what they were.  The coliseum was a place to host great battles. The temple of Athena a place to worship their Goddess of Wisdom. Every place had a purpose, every element from the arch to the concrete to the dome had a reason.

While this may not seem like a novel concept today the idea of building a massive temple, amphitheater or senate house wasn't constructed with environmental psychology or the emotional response elicited. Today you can find videos and lectures on designing a building or space with emotions in

The Romans put the "arch" in "architecture."
mind. Hospitals, dentist offices, book stores and shops are designed to create a specific emotional response in us. Even libraries are designed with great attention to the environment. Their wide open, majestic spaces give a sense of grandeur and importance, the hidden cubbies a sense of privacy and the colors and light create a space of quiet study or reflection.

But, long before there was a class in school titled "Environmental Psychology" architectures were building works of art that still drew out of the viewer an emotional response. Bernini's roundabout, Raguzzini's theatrical Piazza di Sant’Ignazio outside the 3-D painting inside Saint Ignazio church, and St. Peter's Square are just several examples of the awe that a building can inspire. Ancient Roman architecture teaches us a building can inspire emotion, happiness, awe, or disgust even when that is not its purpose, simply because architecture makes us feel something.

 

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