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This article is about the historical style. For the contemporary style, see.

Neoclassical architecture is an produced by the that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of, the principles, and the work of the architect.

In form, neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than and maintains separate identities to each of its parts. The style is manifested both in its details as a reaction against the style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulae as an outgrowth of some classicising features of the architectural tradition. Neoclassical architecture is still designed today, but may be labelled for contemporary buildings.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the style is usually referred to as Classicism (: Klassizismus), while the newer revival styles of the 19th century until today are called neoclassical.



Intellectually, neoclassicism was symptomatic of a desire to return to the perceived "purity" of the arts of, to the more vague perception ("ideal") of arts and, to a lesser extent, 16th-century, which was also a source for academic Late Baroque architecture.

Many early 19th-century neoclassical architects were influenced by the drawings and projects of and. The many graphite drawings of Boullée and his students depict spare geometrical architecture that emulates the eternality of the universe. There are links between Boullée's ideas and 's conception of the. Ledoux addressed the concept of architectural character, maintaining that a building should immediately communicate its function to the viewer: taken literally such ideas give rise to "".


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A return to more classical architectural forms as a reaction to the style can be detected in some European of the earlier 18th century, most vividly represented in the of Georgian and Ireland.

The style had never truly been to the English taste. Four influential books were published in the first quarter of the 18th century which highlighted the simplicity and purity of classical architecture: ( 1715), Palladio's Four Books of Architecture (1715), (1726) and The Designs of Inigo Jones... with Some Additional Designs (1727). The most popular was the four-volume Vitruvius Britannicus by Colen Campbell. The book contained architectural prints of famous British buildings that had been inspired by the great architects from to Palladio. At first the book mainly featured the work of, but the later tomes contained drawings and plans by Campbell and other 18th-century architects. became well established in 18th-century Britain.

At the forefront of the new school of design was the aristocratic "architect earl", ; in 1729, he and, designed. This House was a reinterpretation of Palladio's Villa Capra, but purified of 16th century elements and ornament. This severe lack of ornamentation was to be a feature of the Palladianism. In 1734 William Kent and Lord Burlington designed one of England's finest examples of Palladian architecture with in. The main block of this house followed Palladio's dictates quite closely, but Palladio's low, often detached, wings of farm buildings were elevated in significance.

This classicising vein was also detectable, to a lesser degree, in the Late Baroque architecture in Paris, such as in 's east range of the. This shift was even visible in Rome at the redesigned façade for.


By the mid 18th century, the movement broadened to incorporate a greater range of Classical influences, including those from. The shift to neoclassical architecture is conventionally dated to the 1750s. It first gained influence in England and France; in England, Sir 's excavations at and other sites, the influence of the and the work of and, was pivotal in this regard. In France, the movement was propelled by a generation of French art students trained in Rome, and was influenced by the writings of. The style was also adopted by progressive circles in other countries such as Sweden and Russia.

International neoclassical architecture was exemplified in 's buildings, especially the in Berlin, Sir 's Bank of England in London and the newly built and in Washington, D.C. of the nascent. The style was international.

A second neoclassic wave, more severe, more studied and more consciously archaeological, is associated with the height of the Napoleonic Empire. In France, the first phase of neoclassicism was expressed in the "Louis XVI style", and the second in the styles called "Directoire" or. The Rococo style remained popular in Italy until the Napoleonic regimes brought the new archaeological classicism, which was embraced as a political statement by young, progressive, urban Italians with republican leanings.[]

In the decorative arts, neoclassicism is exemplified in French furniture of the Empire style; the English furniture of, and, 's and "black basaltes", and the furniture of Austria. The Scottish architect created palatial Italianate interiors for the German-born in.

Interior design[]

Indoors, neoclassicism made a discovery of the genuine classic interior, inspired by the rediscoveries at and. These had begun in the late 1740s, but only achieved a wide audience in the 1760s, with the first luxurious volumes of tightly controlled distribution of (The Antiquities of Herculaneum). The antiquities of Herculaneum showed that even the most classicising interiors of the, or the most "Roman" rooms of were based on and exterior architecture turned outside in, hence their often bombastic appearance to modern eyes: window frames turned into mirrors, fireplaces topped with temple fronts.

The new interiors sought to recreate an authentically Roman and genuinely interior vocabulary. Techniques employed in the style included flatter, lighter motifs, sculpted in low -like relief or painted in monotones ("like cameos"), isolated medallions or vases or busts or or other motifs, suspended on swags of laurel or ribbon, with slender arabesques against backgrounds, perhaps, of "Pompeiian red" or pale tints, or stone colours. The style in France was initially a Parisian style, the ("Greek style"), not a court style; when acceded to the throne in 1774,, his fashion-loving Queen, brought the "Louis XVI" style to court.

However, there was no real attempt to employ the basic forms of Roman furniture until around the turn of the century, and furniture-makers were more likely to borrow from ancient architecture, just as silversmiths were more likely to take from ancient pottery and stone-carving than metalwork: "Designers and craftsmen... seem to have taken an almost perverse pleasure in transferring motifs from one medium to another".

A was inaugurated by Robert and, who travelled in Italy and Dalmatia in the 1750s, observing the ruins of the classical world. On their return to Britain, they published a book entitled The Works in Architecture in installments between 1773 and 1779. This book of engraved designs made the Adam repertory available throughout Europe. The Adam brothers aimed to simplify the and styles which had been fashionable in the preceding decades, to bring what they felt to be a lighter and more elegant feel to Georgian houses. The Works in Architecture illustrated the main buildings the Adam brothers had worked on and crucially documented the interiors, furniture and fittings, designed by the Adams.

Greek revival[]

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From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the medium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism, the. There was little to no direct knowledge of Greek civilization before the middle of the 18th century in, when an expedition funded by the in 1751 and led by and began serious archaeological enquiry. Stuart was commissioned after his return from Greece by George Lyttelton to produce the first Greek building in England, the garden temple at (1758–59). A number of British architects in the second half of the century took up the expressive challenge of the Doric from their aristocratic patrons, including and, but it was to remain the private enthusiasm of connoisseurs up to the first decade of the 19th century.

Seen in its wider social context, Greek Revival architecture sounded a new note of sobriety and restraint in public buildings in Britain around 1800 as an assertion of attendant on the, the, and the clamour for political reform. It was to be 's winning design for the public competition for that announced the Greek style was to be the dominant idiom in architecture. Wilkins and went on to build some of the most important buildings of the era, including the, (1808–09), the General Post Office (1824–1829) and the (1823–1848), Wilkins (1826–1830) and the (1832–1838). In Scotland, Thomas Hamilton (1784–1858), in collaboration with the artists Andrew Wilson (1780–1848) and Hugh William Williams (1773–1829) created monuments and buildings of international significance; the Burns Monument at Alloway (1818) and the (Royal) High School in Edinburgh (1823–1829).

At the same time the in France was a more grandiose wave of neoclassicism in architecture and the decorative arts. Mainly based on Imperial Roman styles, it originated in, and took its name from, the rule of in the, where it was intended to idealize Napoleon's leadership and the French state. The style corresponds to the more bourgeois style in the German-speaking lands, in the United States, the in Britain, and the Napoleonstil in Sweden. According to the art historian "so far from being, as is sometimes supposed, the culmination of the Neo-classical movement, the Empire marks its rapid decline and transformation back once more into a mere antique revival, drained of all the high-minded ideas and force of conviction that had inspired its masterpieces".

Neoclassicism continued to be a major force in through the 19th century and beyond—a constant antithesis to or —although from the late 19th century on it had often been considered anti-modern, or even reactionary, in influential critical circles.[] The centres of several European cities, notably and, came to look much like museums of Neoclassical architecture.


A. Rinaldi. The White hall of the Gatchina palace. 1760s. An early example of the Italianate neoclassical interior design in Russian architecture.

High neoclassicism was an international movement. Though neoclassical architecture employed the same classical vocabulary as, it tended to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of were more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs were flatter and tended to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels. Its clearly articulated individual features were isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves.

The L'Enfant Plan for Washington, D.C., as revised by in 1792.

Neoclassicism also influenced city planning; the ancient Romans had used a consolidated scheme for city planning for both defence and civil convenience, however, the roots of this scheme go back to even older civilizations. At its most basic, the of streets, a central forum with city services, two main slightly wider boulevards, and the occasional diagonal street were characteristic of the very logical and orderly Roman design. Ancient façades and building layouts were oriented to these city design patterns and they tended to work in proportion with the importance of public buildings.

Many of these patterns found their way into the first modern of the 18th century. Exceptional examples include and Washington, D.C. Not all planned cities and planned neighbourhoods are designed on neoclassical principles, however. Opposing models may be found in Modernist designs exemplified by, the,, and.

Regional trends[]


From the middle of the 18th century, exploration and publication changed the course of British architecture towards a purer vision of the Ancient Greco-Roman ideal. 's work The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece was very influential in this regard, as were 's Palmyra and Baalbec. A combination of simple forms and high levels of enrichment was adopted by the majority of contemporary British architects and designers. The revolution begun by Stuart was soon to be eclipsed by the work of the,,,, and provincially based architects such as and of.

In the early 20th century, the writings of were responsible for a re-awakening of interest in pure neoclassical design. (compare Harris's colonnaded and domed interior of Manchester Central Reference Library to the colonnaded and domed interior by and R R Duke), and were among those who designed public buildings in the neoclassical style in the. In the in India, Sir ' monumental city planning for marked the sunset of neoclassicism. In and the north of England, where the Gothic Revival was less strong, architects continued to develop the neoclassical style of. The works of and show that by the end of the 19th century the results could be powerful and eccentric.


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The first phase of is expressed in the style of architect (, 1762–68); the second phase, in the styles called and "", might be characterized by 's severe astylar (designed in 1806). In England the two phases might be characterized first by the structures of, the second by those of Sir. The interior style in France was initially a Parisian style, the "" ("Greek style") not a court style. Only when the young king acceded to the throne in 1774 did, his fashion-loving Queen, bring the to court.

From about 1800 a fresh influx of Greek architectural examples, seen through the medium of etchings and engravings, gave a new impetus to neoclassicism that is called the. Although several European cities — notably,, Berlin and — were transformed into veritable museums of Greek revival architecture, the Greek revival in France was never popular with either the State or the public.

What little there was, started with 's crypt in the church of St Leu-St Gilles (1773–80), and 's Barriere des Bonshommes (1785–89). First-hand evidence of Greek architecture was of very little importance to the French, due to the influence of 's doctrines that sought to discern the principles of the Greeks instead of their mere practices. It would take until Laboustre's of the second Empire for the Greek revival to flower briefly in France.


After the establishment of the in 1832, the architecture of Greece was mostly influenced by the Neoclassical architecture. For Athens, the first King of Greece,, commissioned the architects and to design a modern city plan. The was the first important public building to be built, between 1836 and 1843. Later in the mid and late 19th century, and took part in the construction of many neoclassical buildings. Theophil von Hansen designed his first building, the and two of the three contiguous buildings forming the so-called "Athens Classical Trilogy", namely the (1859) and the (1888), the third building of the trilogy being the (1843), which was designed by his brother. Also he designed the (1888). Ernst Ziller also designed many private mansions in the center of Athens which gradually became public, usually through donations, such the mansion of, (1880). The city of is also an important example of Neoclassical Architecture along with the island of.


Cathedral of by I. M. A. Ganneval, 1762–1777

The earliest examples of neoclassical architecture in Hungary may be found in. In this town the triumphal arch and the neoclassical façade of the baroque Cathedral were designed by the French architect Isidor Marcellus Amandus Ganneval (Isidore Canevale) in the 1760s. Also the work of a French architect Charles Moreau is the garden façade of the Esterházy Palace (1797–1805) in Kismarton (today in Austria). The two principal architect of Neoclassicism in Hungary was and. Pollack's major work is the (1837–1844). Hild is famous for his designs for the Cathedral of and. The is an outstanding example of the many Protestant churches that were built in the first half of the 19th century. This was the time of the first iron structures in Hungarian architecture, the most important of which is the by.


Neoclassical architecture was introduced in Malta in the late 18th century, during the final years of. Early examples include the (1786), the (1798) and the (1801). However, neoclassical architecture only became popular in Malta following the in the early 19th century. In 1814, a neoclassical decorated with the British coat of arms was added to the building so as to serve as a symbol of British Malta. Other 19th century neoclassical buildings include the (1810), (1832), (1844), the (1860) and the now-destroyed (1866).

Neoclassicism gave way to other architectural styles by the late 19th century. Few buildings were built in the neoclassical style during the 20th century, such as the museum (1922), and the in Valletta (1965–71).

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth[]

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The center of Polish Neoclassicism was under the rule of the last Polish king. was another important center of the Neoclassical architecture in Europe, led by notable professors of architecture, and. The style was expressed in the shape of main public buildings, such as the University's Observatory, and the.

The best-known architects and artists, who worked in were,,,,,, and.

A Russian Orthodox church near in Siberia (built in 1816).


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In the at the end of the 19th century, neoclassical architecture was equal to architecture because this style was specific for a huge number of buildings in the city.

In the Soviet Union (1917–1991), neoclassical architecture was very popular among the political elite, as it effectively expressed state power and a vast array of neoclassical building was erected all over the country.

Soviet neoclassical architecture was exported to other socialist countries of the, as a gift from the Soviet Union. Examples of this include the,, Poland and the Shanghai International Convention Centre in, China.


Spanish Neoclassicism was exemplified by the work of, who adapted 's theories of beauty and the sublime to the requirements of Spanish climate and history. He built the, that combined three functions — an academy, an auditorium and a museum — in one building with three separate entrances.

This was part of the ambitious program of, who intended to make Madrid the Capital of the Arts and Sciences. Very close to the museum, Villanueva built the Astronomical Observatory. He also designed several summer houses for the kings in and and reconstructed the Major Square of, among other important works. Villanueva´s pupils expanded the Neoclassical style in Spain.

The Third Reich[]

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Neoclassical architecture was the preferred style by the leaders of the National Socialist movement in the, especially admired by himself. Hitler commissioned his favourite architect,, to plan a re-design of Berlin as a city comprising imposing neoclassical structures, which would be renamed as, the centrepiece of Hitler's Thousand Year Reich.

These plans never came to fruition due to the eventual downfall of Nazi Germany and the.

United States[]

In the new republic, 's neoclassical manner was adapted for the local late 18th and early 19th-century style, called "". One of the pioneers of this style was English-born, who is often noted as one of the first formally trained America's professional architects and the father of American architecture. The, the first cathedral in the United States, is considered by many experts to be Latrobe's masterpiece.

The widespread use of neoclassicism in American architecture, as well as by French revolutionary regimes, and the general tenor of associated with the movement, all created a link between neoclassicism and and in much of Europe. The can be seen as an attempt to present a and alternative to neoclassicism.

In later 19th-century American architecture, neoclassicism was one expression of the movement, ca 1880–1917. Its last manifestation was in (1885–1920), and its very last, large public projects in the United States include the (1922), the in Washington, D.C. (1937), and the 's Roosevelt Memorial (1936).

Today, there is a small revival of Classical Architecture as evidenced by the groups such as The Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America. The School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, currently teaches a fully Classical curriculum.

See also:

After a lull during the period of modern architectural dominance (roughly post-World War II until the mid-1980s), neoclassicism has seen somewhat of a resurgence. This rebirth can be traced to the movement of and 's embrace of classical elements as ironic, especially in light of the dominance of Modernism. While some continued to work with classicism as ironic, some architects such as, began to consider classicism seriously. While some schools had interest in classical architecture, such as the, no school was purely dedicated to classical architecture. In the early 1990s a program in classical architecture was started by Smith and at the that continues successfully. Programs at the,, and have trained a number of new classical architects since this resurgence. Today one can find numerous buildings embracing neoclassical style, since a generation of architects trained in this discipline shapes urban planning.

As of the first decade of the 21st century, contemporary neoclassical architecture is usually classed under the umbrella term of. Sometimes it is also referred to as /, Traditionalism or simply neoclassical architecture like the historical style. For sincere traditional-style architecture that sticks to regional architecture, materials and craftsmanship, the term (or vernacular) is mostly used. The is awarded to major contributors in the field of 21st century traditional or classical architecture, and comes with a prize money twice as high as that of the modernist.

Regional developments

In the various contemporary public buildings are built in neoclassical style, with the 2006 in being an example.

In Britain a number of architects are active in the neoclassical style. Two new university Libraries, 's Maitland Robinson Library at and 's illustrate that the approach taken can range from the traditional, in the former case, to the unconventional, in the latter case. Recently, came under controversy for promoting a classically designed development on the land of the former in London. Writing to the (who were funding the development through the property development company ) he condemned the accepted modernist plans, instead advocating a classical approach. His appeal was met with success and the plans were withdrawn. A new design by architecture firm Dixon Jones is currently being drafted.

See also[]


  1. . Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-07-07. 
  2. . Retrieved 2017-07-07. 
  3. Honour, 110–111, 110 quoted
  4. Though detects the first Grecian influenced architectural element in the windows of Nuneham Park from 1756, see, "The First Greek Revival Architecture", The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 127, No. 985 (April 1985), pp. 226–229.
  5. Honour, 171–184, 171 quoted
  6. (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 December 2012. Archived wedding from (PDF) on 6 December 2015. 
  7. .. 11 December 2012. Archived from on 4 December 2015. 
  8. Bötig, Klaus (2011). (in Italian). EDT srl. p. 54.  . 
  9. . Archived from on 7 October 2015. 
  10. .. Archived from on 5 January 2015. 
  11. . The Judiciary – Malta. Archived from on 6 January 2015. 
  12. Akin, Akintayo (24 March 2008)... from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2018.  External link in |website= ()
  13. . Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  14. . Archived from on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  15. "Twenty years ago the curriculum was reformed to focus on traditional and classical architecture and urbanism."
  16. : "Together, the 0,000 Driehaus Prize and the,000 Reed Award represent the most significant recognition for classicism in the contemporary built environment"; retained 7 March 2014
  17. Booth, Robert (25 June 2010).. London:. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 

Further reading[]

  • Détournelle, Athanase,, A Paris : Chez l'auteur, 1805
  • Dowling, Elizabeth Meredith, New Classicism, Rizzoli, 2004    
  • Gabriel, Jean-François, Classical Architecture for the Twenty-first Century, Norton, 2004
  • Groth, Håkan, Neoclassicism in the North: Swedish Furniture and Interiors, 1770–1850
  • Honour, Hugh, Neoclassicism
  • Irwin, David, Neoclassicism (in series Art and Ideas) Phaidon, paperback, 1997
  • Lorentz, Stanislaw, Neoclassicism in Poland (Series History of art in Poland)
  • McCormick, Thomas, Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the Genesis of Neoclassicism Architectural History Foundation, 1991
  • Praz, Mario. On Neoclassicism
  • (author), Tim Rawle and Louis Sinclair (photographers), (editor),, Cambridge,, 2015, 200 pp.    
  • Skurman, Andrew, Contemporary Classical: The Architecture of Andrew Skurman, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012  

External links[]

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