Thursday, May 23, 2013


ROMAN ARCHITECTURE Roman architecture arose from the wealth of knowledge that the Romans acquired from their Etruscan neighbours. This knowledge was important in helping the Romans to find solutions to the architectural problems that were facing them for instance knowledge about arch construction. The Roman architecture also incorporated elements of Greek and Phoenix architecture which were noted in the various Roman designs such as Trilinium. There was great development in the Roman architecture during the period of Pax Romana, period between 27 BC and 180 AD, when there was an extensive period of peace and little military expansion. Grandiose structures were built during the period to serve the public for instance the Colosseum, the many aqueducts of Rome, Basilicas and Baths such as Bath of Caracalla. The Roman architecture developments were brought about by several changes that were taking place in the world for instance to satisfy the mob through the building of the coliseum, to accommodate the increasing population and the availability of materials for instance marble and stone. There are a variety of developments which resulted from the Roman architecture (Stamper, 2004). They included; baths, villas, Roman temples, Roman stockades and forts, aqueducts, amphitheatres, Basilicas and arches for example the triumphal arches. The essay will discuss three Roman architecture developments. The developments which will be discussed include; the Roman arches and the Basilicas and the Roman Pantheon. Arches were an architectural innovation that was developed by the Romans and was mostly used in supporting building structures thus allowing them to carry great weights. The arches were curved structures which were made of brick, stones or concrete. The Romans modified the arch that were already being constructed by the Greeks and the Babylonians to support great weights as initially, the arches could only support small weights. The Romans were able to accomplish this through the use of lime and volcanic sand which was used to make concrete which was very strong and durable. The arch was increasingly used in the construction of grand structures throughout the empire for instance the colosseum and even the aqueducts (Moffett, Fazio & Wodehouse, 2003). The roman arch solved the problem of the previous arches not being able to support huge amounts of weight. The architectural development that resulted from the development includes the dome, a modified from of the arch which is hemispherical, which hugely borrows from the principle of the arch construction. The first known example of the application of concept of the arch was in the construction of the Roman Pantheon. The invention of the arch was very important in the construction of the Roman colosseum which combined both the arch, especially the vaulted arch, and concrete. The colosseum was constructed with four tiers with ceilings of corridors and passages and vaulted arches. The vaulted arches were made of concrete thus the arches gave a better support than the flat ceilings could do. The vaulted arches thus achieved the goal of giving the buildings more strength without significantly increasing the weight of the building. The construction of the colosseum was only made possible due to the invention of the vaulted arch (Stamper, 2004). Roman aqueducts which refer to constructed waterways which had running water, connected plumbing inside the houses and sewer systems was meant to carry away diseases from the general population which lived in the Roman Empire were also a development that followed the invention of arches. The ducts were built through a combination of bricks, special cement from volcanoes, known as pozzuolana, and stones. The aqueducts ran mostly below the surface with channels that were cut through rocks to deliver water to the places where it was required. The aqueducts were a novel creation of the Romans which was aimed at solving the problem of delivering water to places which could not permit surface flow of water for instance valleys (Robertson, 1974). The aqueducts were built so that the gradient and the gravity would be brought into play to allow for the free flow of water. Most of the channel of the aqueducts ran underground as this would prevent them from being invaded and were also very economical as compared to the archways which required a great deal of material. The tunnel would not be affected greatly by the earthquakes which were common place in Campagna. When problems arose during the constructions of the aqueducts, for instance the occurrence of depressions or valleys, solid walls known as substructio or arches were used. In some instances, a series of arches were used to carry the channels across the valleys before they could return underground. An example of an aqueduct that was constructed by the Romans is the Aqua Alexandrina which was constructed in 226 AD. It was measuring about 22.4 Km with the first 6.4 Km underground, 2.4 Km were carried on arches with some parts of the aqueduct uncovered (Aicher, 1995). The arches which supported the aqueduct were made of bricks. The other notable development that resulted from Roman architecture is the basilica. The Roman basilicas were constructed as public buildings and were usually located in the fora. Basilicas were vey large buildings which used very minimal materials in their construction. The basilica was a standard of the roman cities where aisles flanked rectangular halls with the roof made of shallow gable (Robertson, 1974). There was a semi-circular projection at the rear wall of the building. The most prominent person such as the judge in courthouses sat in this space which was known as the apse (Jackson, 1978). The walls of the structure were supported by columns where the weight of the house could be channeled through arches. The use of the arches and the columns enabled the building of very huge houses. The area was maximized through the use of vaulted arches. Christianity later adopted the basilica style of construction thereby building most of the catholic churches of that period using the style. Examples of basilicas include St. Paul basilica which was found outside the walls of Rome. The basilica was rebuilt in the 19th century following its destruction by fires. The other basilicas which served in the ancient Rome include the Iulia and Maxentius. Most of the present day catholic churches are made of the basilica architectural design (Ward-Perkins, 2003). The Roman pantheon was built to have the effect of dwarfing the humans who approached the structures. This is an architectural style that has been used to show the power that the building has for instance the house of government and the places where the rulers were found. The pantheon has been re-enacted in different parts of the world. Pantheon was the largest dome in the world standing at 43.3m diameter before the la Defense in Paris was constructed. The pantheon was made of a rectangular chamber that was surrounded by columns which were close to the building. The interior o the building was round, which represented both perfection and the heavens to the Romans. The pantheon used various proportions and forms for instance the pediments were triangular, the dome was semi-circular while the columns were Corinthian. The style was used by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in his design of the White House, USA. The roman architecture has significantly contributed to the field of architecture especially through the exploitation of great order of design and the great discoveries which were made. The development of the arches can be considered as the greatest contribution that the Romans brought into the profession especially due to the increased ability of the vaulted arches which could carry great weights. The developments which the Romans brought in the use of stone, concrete and brick have changed the face of architectural buildings forever as the buildings have significantly increased in size. The concept of the Roman pantheon is still applied in the design of buildings especially to show the grandiose nature of the building and also to show the power that the buildings exude. The aqueducts especially the way they draw water into the towns has increasingly been used in modern design of towns where the water and other sewerage contents flow through the towns through the effect of gravity and the use of gradient. References Aicher, P. (1995), Guide to the aqueducts of ancient Rome, Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers Jackson, T. (1978), Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture, Cambridge University Press Moffett, M., Fazio, M. & Wodehouse, L. (2003), A world history of architecture, London: King Robertson, D. (1974), Greek & Roman Architecture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Stamper, J. (2004), The architecture of Roman temples: the republic to the middle empire, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press Ward-Perkins, J. (2003), Roman architecture, Milan: Electa Architecture