|Ancient Greek Architecture
Architecture comes from the Greek word architekton, which means “master carpenter.”
By the 6th Century BC, stone replaced wood in the construction of important temples, yet designs still reflected their origins in wood.
The triglyph, which alternates with the metapes in the frieze, began as wooden beam ends.
Some feel that the entasis, the outward bulging in the middle of Greek columns, may originally have been an imitation of the effect of great compression in wooden posts, though it also serves as a kind of correction to an optical illusion.
Entasis counteracts the tendency of the eye to reach upward, forcing it to travel up and down the shaft. Furthermore, columns that are straight appear thinner in the middle when seen against the light, making the support appear flimsy. This middle bulge counteracts this appearance.
Greek temple architecture tended to follow set patterns, which were regarded as ideal forms.
Variations are few in any given period, tending to reflect the choice of a particular classical order, rather than new and novel design.
The three classical orders are:
Greek architects and builders followed fixed rules of proportion in constructing their ideal structures.
There are four parts to a Greek temple:
The bottom, horizontal, part is the steps. Most Greek temples had three of them. This part is called the stylobate.
The next section is vertical and is the column. Most columns had a base (though not the Doric) at the bottom, a shaft in the middle, and a capital at the top. The shaft may be smooth or fluted.
Above the column is the entablature. If the column is the leg, think of this as the tabletop. It has three parts, the architrave – a kind of base – the frieze – a decorated part –ad the cornice, the top.
The top section is angled and is called the pediment. The sloping top part is called the sloping cornice, while the triangular part below is called the tympanum. This is often carved and decorated. Sometimes there are carved features sticking up from the roof, these are referred to as antifixae or acroterions
The grandeur and evident expense of a temple is apparent in the number of columns employed.
Simple temples have blank walls around a naos, or chapel, with an open area or porch in front called a pronaos, with two supporting columns.
Grander temples, like the Parthenon, had both a front and back porch, but also a colonnade surrounding the entire structure. This is called a peripteral temple.
Grander still, and generally from the Hellenistic age, are dipteral temples. They have a double colonnade surrounding them.
Greek architecture had a lasting impact on the world. The Romans adopted it as an ideal, but modified it to meet their practical needs.
Today, elements of Greek architecture surround us everywhere, from the Doric columns gracing local homes, to the great Ionic capitals of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Greek forms have become an integral part of the vocabulary of world architecture.