How Did Architecture Change Over Time

Prehistoric Times

The history of architecture has its roots in pre-history, when man first learnt to build shelters using primarily basic tools and materials found in nature. Prehistoric architecture is characterized by the use of natural materials such as wood, stone, and clay; there were no art and craftsmanship abilities to speak of, although primitive humans did possess the ability to work the materials of their surrounding environment for the most basic of needs. Natural conditions such as the elements and geographical features affected the design of shelter, and primitive structures relied heavily on the alignment of natural elements to create protection from the elements and predators, with materials used typically in what is known as dry-stone walling, as well as the use of natural resources such as timber and plant-based materials in their construction.

Ancient Times

Ancient architecture, according to the definition of the time, was already highly sophisticated in comparison to prehistoric architecture and was the first to incorporate a level of art and craftsmanship, with the development and adoption of technology such as masonry and basic tools. Structures were built largely with stone and mud-brick, which were abundant in ancient civilisations living close to settlements and riverbeds. Ancient architecture was greatly influenced by power and politics, with rulers claiming a grandiosity of their own and creating grand monuments, temples, palaces and tombs as marks of their authority. These structures were also designed to meet certain social and religious needs, with analysis of the structures often providing clues to the beliefs of these civilisations and their ways of life.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages saw a shift towards more complex, structured architecture, with cities becoming defined by walls, gates and towers. This period was known for the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture, both of which focused heavily on the use of religious symbolism to reflect the beliefs and values of the people. Gothic architecture, for example, featured the use of pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses, considered to be hallmarks of the style and a representation of religious faith and devotion. Structures were also built in stone, as well as brick and wood, with many of the shapes and materials used reflecting the ecclesiastical religious themes found throughout this period.


The Renaissance period saw a major shift in architecture, with many classic styles such as the Palladian and the Tuscan being developed. Influenced by the classical styles of Ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance architecture featured the use of classical elements such as the column, pediment, and entablature to create structures that were intended to evoke a sense of beauty and grandeur, while still remaining functional. Characterised by symmetry, proportion, and harmony, Renaissance architecture was a reaction to the more ornate and lavish Gothic styles of the Middle Ages.


Modern architecture developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a reaction to the industrialisation of cities and the advancements in building materials, tools, and technology. It was characterised by a focus on the functionality of structures, and the use of new materials such as steel and concrete to create unimaginable shapes. Modernism aimed to create works of architecture that were both aesthetically pleasing and suitable to the needs of the modern man, with famous examples such as The Guggenheim Museum of New York being noted for their originality in form and materials.


Contemporary architecture is a reaction to the monotonous and rigid styles of traditional architecture; its focus is on creating structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The style is characterized by the introduction of new materials and technologies, as well as unprecedented experimentation with form, materials, and structure, in order to create unique works of architecture. There is an emphasis on the importance of sustainability, with a focus on the use of natural materials and methods of construction that are both cost- and energy-efficient.

Future of Architecture

The future of architecture holds many possibilities, as technology is advancing quickly and materials and building techniques are being improved upon rapidly. It is likely that the focus will shift towards making sure structures are sustainable and energy-efficient, while still striking a balance between aesthetics and functionality. New technologies such as 3D-printing and computer-aided design (CAD) will likely be implemented in the near future, while the use of materials such as graphene and nanotechnology will continue to revolutionize the way structures are designed and built.

Innovative Architecture

Innovative architecture is becoming increasingly popular, as more people are looking for an individualized, unique style for their home or office. Innovative architecture focuses on the creative use of space, materials, and energy, utilizing modern tools and technologies to create aesthetically pleasing, functional works of architecture. Innovative architecture pays special attention to the “feel” of a space, utilizing color, texture, and texture to create an environment that can be enjoyed by the people inhabiting it.


Sustainability is at the forefront of contemporary architecture, with a focus on the importance of using natural materials and methods of construction that are both cost- and energy-efficient. This focus on sustainability ensures that structures are both practical and economical, while also maintaining an environmental conscience and leaving a minimal carbon footprint. Many architects are also looking at ways to utilize green energy sources and recycled materials, as this is increasingly becoming a necessity in the modern world.


Urbanism is an increasingly popular concept in architecture, focusing on the use of urban planning to ensure harmonious and efficient development. Urbanism emphasizes the importance of considering the effects of a structure on its environment and its inhabitants; this often includes considerations such as the use of public transportation, green spaces, and energy-efficient buildings, as well as the effects on traffic, air quality, and the environment. As urban areas become increasingly densely populated, urbanism will become even more important in creating a balance between a structure and its environment.

Recycled Materials

Recycled materials are becoming increasingly popular in the world of architecture, as more people are becoming conscious of the effect of their lifestyle on the environment and the need for sustainable materials and methods of construction. Recycled materials can be used in both residential and commercial buildings, with designers often utilizing reclaimed wood, brick, and stone to create aesthetically pleasing and cost-efficient structures. This can be combined with other, more modern materials such as plastics and metal to produce a modern, stylish structure with a reduced environmental impact.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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