All aspects of Renaissance culture, from art and architecture to philosophy, were influenced and inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Generally, architecture in the Renaissance can be described as symmetrical, harmonious and sober. Many buildings that were built in the Renaissance are perfect symmetrical, if you would draw a line through the middle of the building, it would have two exact same halves. Because it is so symmetrical, it looks very harmonious and static. However, it often also looks authorative probably because of the use of pediments and columns which make it look like Grecian temples. Renaissance buildings are rarely very high or vertical in contrast to buildings in Gothic architecture. Furthermore, architecture in the Renaissance was very much about the details.
On many buildings, you can see lintels, which are the things above the window and you can also often see small sculptures of men, women, gods or other important people. The most important characteristic of the Renaissance is that shapes from the Greek and Roman times were reused in new designs. Typical characteristics that returned in many designs are: columns, which are vertical pillars, pilasters, which is almost the same as a column except that a pilaster is connected to the wall sticking out and it is used as a decoration, vaults, which are arched roofs that support the weight of a roof, domes, which is a hollow sphere above a building and arches, which are structures that span a space while supporting weight, such as a doorway or window in a wall.
This is one example of a villa built in Renaissance style. The architect was Palladio, who designed the building in 1567. Palladio was asked to build a villa for Paolo Almerica, a high functionary of the Pope. Villa Almerica is better known as La Rotonda. It was used as a location for parties as well as a place to live in. It is made up of a cube centre part, where the owners of the villa lived, with on the 4 sides of the building the same set of columns and entablature built to it. In this picture, you can see that this building has a dome, pilasters, lintels and columns with Ionic capitals, which you can see here. A capital is the top of a column. It also has an entablature with a cornice and the architrave. The two middle columns are placed a bit to the sides to emphasize the door. This part looks a bit like a Grecian temple and that makes it look authorative.
Another example of a building made in the Renaissance is The Tempietto del San Pietro. It is a cylinder-shaped little church in Rome. The word “tempietto” means “small Temple” as it is one. The Tempietto is built at the court of the San pietro in Montorio church. It was built by Donato Bramante in 1502. The Spanish king Ferdinand ordered Bramante to build a church to remember the crucifixion of Petrus, one of the first apostles and the first pope. The little temple would be built on the spot where Petrus was crucified.
This is why the building is especially important in Rome. As you can see it looks very Greek again because of the columns with doric capitals. It also has a dome but it especially looks Greek because of the symmetry of the temple. The building expresses the balanced proportions of Renaissance architecture. The columns, the frieze and the decorative features all show the classical influence.
At the end of the 17th century, Baroque rose up and started to replace the Renaissance. This change was due to religious reasons. In the 1500s the Roman Catholic Church was under much pressure to reform. In this period, Protestantism was rising, especially in northern Europe. Protestantism was highly critical of the Roman Catholic Church and its abuses of its powerful position. Baroque can be seen as a cultural public relations movement started by the Roman Catholic Church to win back the support of the people. Protestantism is characterized by sober architecture. The roman-Catholics decided to go the opposite direction and promote architecture which was over the top, dramatic and extraordinary, to try and get the public back to re-interest in the Roman Catholic Church again.
Baroque is an architectural style, which evolved in the 16th century in Italy. During the 17th century, the style spread through Europe and Latin America. Baroque architecture is the opposite of Renaissance architecture. Renaissance architecture was very calm and balanced, symmetrical and harmonious while the baroque architecture was very extravagant and asymmetrical. Baroque style is all about drama, energy and rhythm. The grandiose buildings, sculptures and paintings were meant to inspire religious awe and excitement in the people. The Baroque architecture draws your attention. Baroque style is typical for breaking the limits for classic buildings and going in an extreme form. Most baroque buildings have bent asymmetrical shapes. Baroque architecture buildings are supposed to amaze people. It is supposed to look fantastic and over the top. Some people might think it is kitsch.
This is a picture of a kaisersal residence, which was used from 1719 to 1944. Johann Balthazar Neumann was the architect who designed this baroque style house for the Prince Bishops of Wuerzburg. In this room, the Bishop received important people. The over the top theme of baroque is shown in this room by the amount of decoration. It is really overwhelming because of all the gold and the decorations. You can see that this room was designed to receive important people as it would impress them. You can’t recognize any Renaissance architecture features in this room anymore. You can’t see any Ancient Greek or Roman architectural features.
This is another example of Baroque architecture. It is the Berlin Cathedral or Berliner Dom in Berlin, Germany. It is also called the Lutheran Cathedral. The people who went to Berlin might recognize it. Again, you can see that it is very extravagant and over the top. It has many details and decorative features such as all the sculptures. This building has some Renaissance features though such as the pilasters and the pediments and off course the domes.
The baroque spread through Europe but didn’t really spread in this form to northern Europe because Protestantism was too strong there. In Holland, which was also very protestant, the Baroque style developed in its own way. It had such a distinctive style that it got a different name: Dutch Classicism or Hollands Classicisme. It glorified the Dutch Republic of the 17th century, democracy and the new found wealth from colonialism.