What Is Classical Style Architecture

Background of Classical Style Architecture

Classical style architecture is a broad term that encompasses multiple styles and architectural movements from the 17th and 18th centuries. It originated from ancient Greek and Roman architecture, drawing from the likes of columns, pediments, and mouldings. This style was heavily featured in many grandiose projects of the Baroque style and later evolved into the Palladian, Neoclassical, and Regency styles. This style has been popular throughout many civilizations, with some notable examples being the White House in Washington D.C. and the Bank of England.

Classical style architecture is characterized by its simple, symmetrical alignment and use of classical elements. Additionally, the arrangement of windows and doors often follows this symmetry. One distinct feature of this style is its use of columns and pilasters, which are structurally important and aesthetically beautiful elements. Furthermore, this style is often seen as having a grand and imposing feel due to its use of large amounts of symmetry and features such as a pediment, which is a triangular gable that often surmounts the entrance of a building.

Classical style architecture has a long and intricate history, beginning with its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. It was during the Renaissance period of the 15th to 16th centuries that the style made a resurgence, being most notably exemplified in Renaissance buildings such as the Pantheon in Rome and the Uffizi Palace in Florence.

From the 17th to 18th centuries, the Style spread throughout Europe and into America, culminating in what is known as the Neoclassical movement. This movement was characterized by the blending of Renaissance classicism with the Baroque style, with the end result being neoclassical buildings featuring grand exteriors and elaborate interiors. This period is often seen as a highpoint of wealth and power, with some of its defining elements being columns, arches, balustrades and pediments.

Elements of Classical Style Architecture

Classical style architecture is defined by its simple, symmetrical lines, its use of grandeur and its use of a grandiose approach. Its key elements are its use of columns, its grand exteriors, its elaborated interiors and its use of classical elements.

Columns were one of the key elements of the classical style, used in many projects to create a sense of grandeur. They were the main structurally important elements of this style, employed to provide both support and aesthetics. Furthermore, their decorative nature often gave the building a sense of luxury, making them integral design elements.

In addition to columns, classical style architecture also uses grand exteriors and elaborate interiors. Grand exteriors are characterized by their use of symmetry and ornamentation, with buildings often featuring elements such as facades, archways, cornices and railings. On the other hand, elaborate interiors are seen as more intricate, with the use of elaborate decorations and features such as coffered ceilings and intricate moulding.

Lastly, one of the major components of classical style architecture is its use of classical elements. These include elements such as the belvedere and the pediment, with the latter being a triangular gable used to surmount the entrance of a building. Other important classical elements include columns, balustrades, and archways.

Notable Examples of Classical Style Architecture

One of the most iconic examples of classical style architecture is the White House in Washington D.C., which was designed by James Hoban in 1792. The design was modeled after the Leinster House in Dublin, with the building featuring symmetrical elements such as the south portico, the north portico, and the east and west columned terraces. Other notable examples include the Bank of England and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Another renowned project of this style is the Whitehall Palace in London, which was part of a series of buildings constructed for King Charles I of England. The palace serves as an example of the Blend of Palladian and Baroque architecture, boasting a grand exterior with its use of classical elements such as symmetrical columns and balconies. Furthermore, the Pediment was added in 1720, allowing for a more elaborate, grandiose look.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is also a prime example of classical style architecture. This iconic undergratuated gateway was built by Carl Gotthard Langhans in 1791, and has become an icon of the city’s history. The structure contains several classical elements, such as ionic columns and elaborate statuary, and is often called the “Gate of the 18th Century Grecian Age”.

The Petit Trianon in Versailles is another notable example. This building was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and is known for its combination of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. The building features an intricate façade, punctuated with symmetrical columns and decorative features. Furthermore, some of its most notable features include its balustrade, domed pediment and its elaborate cornice.

Impact of Classical Style Architecture

Classical style architecture has had a significant influence on modern architecture, with a significant amount of today’s buildings displaying characteristics of the style. The style has proved to be a popular and enduring style, inspiring many of the great works of the past, present, and future. It has been used widely throughout the world and is often seen as a symbol of power and grandeur.

Furthermore, classical style architecture has also had a great impact on modern art, with many renowned works of art inspired by its grandiose style. From renowned painters such as Rodin and Renoir to modern sculptors such as Anish Kapoor, many artworks have been heavily influenced by the values of classical style architecture.

Classical style architecture has also been very influential on urban planning and design. It has lent itself to the construction of monumental civic buildings and public spaces, as well as providing inspiration for commercial projects such as office buildings and malls.

Revival of Classical Style Architecture

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in classical style architecture, with more and more buildings being built in this style. This is due to the growing trend of incorporating classical elements into modern designs, which is becoming increasingly popular with architects. This has led to more buildings being built in the classical style, with some notable examples being the Getty Center in LA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA and the Hearst Tower in NY.

Additionally, this resurgence has led to a greater appreciation of the style, with many people recognizing the value of such buildings. From universities and hospitals to art galleries and museums, these buildings often act as cultural icons and are admired by many. For instance, in San Francisco, the historic Civic Center district features numerous classical style structures such as City Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, and the Federal Building. These structures often act as gathering places and serve as a reminder of the style’s influence on modern architecture.


Classical style architecture has been an enduring and influential form of architecture since the 17th century. It draws from a range of classical elements and has proved to be an enduring form of architecture that is still admired today. This style has been seen in many renowned buildings throughout history, with some notable examples being the White House in Washington D.C. and the Bank of England. Furthermore, its resurgence in recent years has led to an increased appreciation of the classical style, with more and more buildings being built in this style.

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.

Leave a Comment