Ancient Greek Architecture
A rendered Greek Temple


In the world today, buildings are mass produced and created in an efficient way, serving comfort and function. People in modern society live their lives without proper recognition of the art of Greek architecture. With its innovative style of designing buildings, Ancient Greek architecture has inspired the world. The Ancient Greek style of architecture paved the way for modern day buildings.

The unique design of their work reflected life in Ancient Greece. Everything Ancient Greeks did displayed the ideals of social harmony and spiritual discipline promoted by the philosophers; including architecture. We can see their temples are very harmonious and disciplined (Hersey). To create a process of formulating buildings, the Greeks created Orders. Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian Orders were the primary formulas for temples. All the Orders focused heavily on the importance of columns and tablatures. The column and pediment was a system of maintaining structural integrity by placing tall posts around the structure proportionate to the size of the building. Tablatures were placed above the columns all around the building. They were usually filled with sculptures depicting a scene or story. The tablature had to correspond with the proper Order (Curlee). Buildings based on the Doric Order were very clean cut and geometric. Columns were larger at the end and got smaller at the smaller at the top. Other buildings in the Ionic Order had more organic shapes and columns with fancier engravings at the ends and included flutes, carved lines that run the length of the column. The most extravagant Order was the Corinthian Order. The columns were much like that of the Ionic Order but had flowers and leaves carved at the top. Unlike the triangularly shaped roof of the Ionic and Doric Orders, the Corinthian Order has a flat roof. Most temples of that time were either Ionic or Doric.
Temples were used to worship the many gods of the Ancient Greeks. Since temples were such important holy places, the finest architecture could be seen there (Hemingway). Because temples were the most precious building in each city, the most work went into them. The form of building complemented the function. Columns allowed buildings to be larger and taller. In the Parthenon this structure provided sufficient space for the statue of Athena to be built. Entablatures allowed an artist to express his work and worship the Gods at the same time. Greek society’s ideals of balance and symmetry are evident in their buildings, but it was more than styles of architecture. Entirety of life surrounded those ideas. This shows that everything was equal or balanced, including form and function. Both were weighted equally. Inevitably the affects of balance were innovation and success (Classical).

Success of the Greeks was greatly due to their ability to use the resources in the surrounding environment. Temples were built on the larger hills of the already rocky terrain of Greece. Putting important buildings on hills allowed people from far away to see it and the structure could be easily defended. Enemies would need to climb the hill with warriors on top the hill. The rocky terrain provided plenty of stone to be used in construction. Lime stone was easy to carve and durable enough to hold large structures such as temples, legal buildings, and Greek theaters. Resources in other areas of the world were not available to the Greeks. By using the resources available to them, they were able to create a unique style of architecture with many different orders. Without the unique environment the Greeks used, the lifestyle and structures of that time would have been very different. Everything they did reflected the environment and the resources presented to them (Ching).
Model of Greek Architecture in Modern Design

The Greeks needed to efficiently use the materials available, so they incorporated symmetry into their architecture. Symmetry created a very clean look in the structures. All columns of the same order were identical and the entablature always showed symmetry in the art. To ensure proper congruency between multiple buildings, the first step of building a temple was finding the proper scale for all segments of the structure. Applying this to all buildings, the Ancient Greeks became masters of symmetry and balance. In some ways, the Greeks were not the only ones to do this throughout history. We see symmetry in all areas of the world such as Europe, Egypt, Japan, South America and Rome (Du Temple). Universal use of symmetry shows its significance in the world’s development of architecture.

Modern architecture culminates structures and arts of the past. Ancient Greek architecture is used as a basis for many modern buildings. The White House in Washington D.C. is based on the Corinthian Order of Ancient Greece. It has a flat roof and pillars similar to the Ionian Order but decorated much more intricately. Entablatures have been incorporated in many structures of the world. Houses, places of worship, and even bridges have entablatures on them (Macaulay). Even though these contributions are artistic, they still allow architects to express buildings in different ways. The column and pediment are structural advances that are evident in today’s world. The judicial building in the United States has Columns. This advancement allows people to increase structural support in buildings of various types. Greek architecture contributed to the world in ways the people of their time never intended to (Classical).

Without the development of the columns and orders, the growth of architecture would have been stunted. The innovations of the Ancient Greeks paved the way for architecture in modern society. In the present, we can look back at the people of that time and admire the work they completed and appreciate its affects on life as we know it. Hopefully in the future, Ancient Greek architecture can continue to inspire architects of the world.

Work Cited

Web pages:

"Classical architecture." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.


Hersey, G. L., and Marvin Trachtenberg. "Architecture." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

Hemingway, Colette. "Architecture in Ancient Greece". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)


DuTemple, Lesley A. The Pantheon. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2003. Print.

Macaulay, David. Building Big. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Print.

Curlee, Lynn. Parthenon. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 2004. Print.

Ching, Frank. Architecture--form, Space, & Order. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.