21+ Famous Buildings and Monuments Influenced by Roman Architecture
Roman Architecture is still as awe-inspiring today as it must have been millennia ago. Since the fall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, classical architecture has continued to inspire architectural design and styles throughout the ages.
Beginning with the Renaissance, various architectural styles have sprung up that borrowed heavily from classical styles. These new styles would also be exported outside of Europe as their influence spread throughout the globe.
The Architectural Styles The Roman Empire Gave Us
Here are some of the most notable architectural styles that have been inspired by ancient Roman, Greek, and Byzantine examples. These examples are far from exhaustive and are in no particular order.
Romanesque architecture became current in Europe from around the mid-11th century. Essentially a fusion of Roman, Carolingian, Byzantine, and Germanic traditions, it was largely the product of the great expansion of European monasticism in the 10th–11th centuries.
It has been considered the first truly "European" style of architecture and came about due to the need for larger churches were needed to accommodate the growing numbers of monks and priests, and of the pilgrims who came to view saints’ relics. Masonry vaulting replaced timber construction in a bid to prevent devastating fires.
Neoclassicism was produced by the neoclassical movement of the mid-18th century, partly in reaction to the more naturalistic and flamboyant Baroque and Rococo styles that preceded it. It sought out inspiration from the classical era and was mainly influenced by the antique forms of Greek and Roman architecture.
It was most popular around the 1850s but is, to this day, one of the most popular styles of state buildings in the world.
- Romanesque Revival
Romanesque Revival is a style of building that became popular in the mid-1800s. It drew influence from earlier medieval Romanesque architecture, hence the name.
Unlike their earlier Romanesque influences. revival forms tend to feature simpler arches and windows.
Palladian is a style of architecture inspired by the works of Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Palladio was heavily influenced by the classical forms of Ancient Greece and Rome.
What is recognized as Palladian architecture today is actually an evolution of his work. It continued to be developed by architects throughout the 18th Century. It first became popular in Britain but soon spread throughout Europe.
With that in mind let us now take a short tour of Roman Architecture inspired buildings around the world.
1. Buckingham Palace (Eastern Wing), London
Buckingham Palace, as it is known today, is actually an amalgamation of various building styles added onto an original house which was built-in 1703. The biggest phase of construction was carried out by architects John Nash and Edward Blore during the 19th Century. This consisted of the construction of three wings around a central courtyard.
Buckingham Palace became the official London residence of the British monarch in 1837.
The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. These included the East elevation that closed off the courtyard, and includes the famous balcony where members of the Royal family congregate to greet crowds.
This wing underwent remodeling work in 1913 by architect Sir Aston Webb to its current form.
2. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa
The tower is actually the campanile (free standing bell tower) of the neighboring Pisa Cathedral. Although it is most famous for its tilt, the tower is actually a great example of late Italian Romanesque architecture.
It was designed by Bonnano Pisano and the ground was broken in 1173. Construction of the tower would occur in three stages over 199 years until its final completion in 1372.
The tower's tilt began as soon as construction reached the third floor, starting a battle of wits with the gravity that would continue to the present day.
The foundation of the tower, which is only 9 feet (3 meters) deep, was built on a dense clay that impacted the soil and was not strong enough to hold the tower upright. As a result, the weight of the tower began to shift downward until it had found the weakest point.
Galileo Galilei supposedly used the tower for some of his experiments with gravity.
3. London's Natural History Museum, London
Style: Romanesque revival
Built in an idiosyncratic Romanesque revival style, the Natural History Museum in London is a magnificent building. It was originally designed by the civil engineer Francis Fowke, who won an 1864 competition to design the building. When Fowke died shortly afterwards the scheme was taken over by Alfred Waterhouse, who revised the agreed plans, and re-designed the façades in a Romanesque style which was inspired by his frequent visits to the Continent.
Both men made ample use of Roman-inspired arcadings (a series of arches supported by columns, piers, or pillars) and architectural sculpture, not to mention columns.
Construction commenced in 1873 and was completed seven years later in 1880. Waterhouse's revisions incorporated terracotta tiles to resist the sooty atmosphere of Victorian London.
Today, the museum is one of Britain's best-loved examples of Romanesque architecture-inspired buildings, and one of the city's most iconic landmarks.
4. The White Tower at the Tower of London, London
The White Tower at the Tower of London is another British example of Roman architecture-inspired design. It is, in fact, a historic Norman castle keep (donjon) built over several phases, from the 11th to 14th Centuries.
The conquering Normans quickly began making their mark in Britain with their own take on the Romanesque style; sometimes referred to as Norman Romanesque. The Tower of London, specifically the White Tower, would be one of their greatest works.
Construction began in the early 1080s and it was originally used to provide accommodation for the King and his entourage, but also served as a private chapel. The Chapel of St. John in the Tower has superb examples of a rounded Romanesque arch.
Henry III would later order it to be whitewashed in 1240.
5. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is a fine 18th-century example of neoclassical architecture, built by the Prussian King Frederick William II. It was commissioned to celebrate the conclusion of the Batavian Revolution.
Today it is one of Germany's best-known landmarks and one of the finest triumphal arches in the world. It is built on the site of the former city gate that used to mark the start of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg an der Havel.
Construction began in 1788 and was concluded in 1791. The entire structure was designed by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans.
Since its construction, the gate has been the site of major historical events in Germany. It is now considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of both Europe and Germany.
6. The Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington D.C.
Style: Romanesque revival
Completed in 1855, The Smithsonian Institution Building is built in Seneca red sandstone in a faux Norman style. It is a combination of Romanesque Revival and Gothic styles.
It was the winning entry of James Renwick Junior in an 1846 nationwide competition for its design. It was originally meant to be built in white marble, and then in yellow sandstone, but the designers and building committee finally settled on Seneca sandstone.
The change in materials was due to it being less expensive than marble and very easy to work.
It underwent a general renovation in the late 1960s to install modern electrics, elevators, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Today, the building houses the administrative offices for the Smithsonian.
7. The Galata Tower, Istanbul
The Galata Tower, or Galata Kulesi in Turkish, or the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ by the Genoese) is a medieval stone tower in Istanbul. It is located just to the north of the Golden Horn's junction with the Bosphorus.
It is one of this ancient city's most iconic and striking landmarks and a very popular tourist attraction. The tower is nine-stories tall, at a total height of 219 feet (66.9 meters).
At the time of its construction in the 14th century, it was the tallest construction in the city. It is built in the Romanesque style and was erected during the expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople.
Although the original architect's name has been lost to history, it was repaired by the Ottoman architect, Hayreddin in 1509 following heavy damage from an earthquake.
When the city was captured by the Ottomans, the tower was modified to act as an observation tower for spotting fires in the city. Today it has a restaurant and cafe at its upper levels which provides unparalleled views of the city and river Bosphorus.
8. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a church in the Christian quarter of the city, built on the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. Although the church can trace its origins to the 4th Century AD, it has a long history.
It was burned by the Persians in 614, restored by Modestus in around 620, destroyed by the caliph al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh in around 1009, and restored by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX in the mid-11th century.
Since that time, frequent repair, restoration, and remodeling have been necessary. The present church dates mainly from 1810.
Today, it is still a major place of pilgrimage for Christians the world over.
9. The New York Stock Exchange, 18 Broad Street, New York
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is by far the largest stock exchange in the world. As of August 2019 total market capitalization was around $39.3 Trillion.
The main building, 11 Wall Street, was officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. This building opened for business 1903 and was designed by architects Trowbridge and Livingston and George B. Post.
10. Marble Arch, London
Style: Imperial Roman style/Neoclassical
Marble Arch is an iconic 19th Century Neoclassical triumphal arch located in London, England. Like many other Romanes architecture-inspired buildings in London, it was designed and erected by architect John Nash, although it is not as grand as originally planned, due to cost considerations.
The arch was designed in 1827 and was designed as a grand celebration of British victories in the Napoleonic Wars and as a gateway to the expanding Buckingham Palace. Construction was paused between 1830 and 1832 and completed in 1833. In 1851 it was moved to its current location.
Widening works on Park Lane in the 1960s has now isolated the arch on a traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street.
John Nash based his design for Marble Arch on the wonderfully preserved Arch of Constantine in Rome. The structure is dressed in Carrara marble quarried near Seravezza in Tuscany.
11. California State Capitol, Sacramento
The California State Capitol building houses the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor of the state of California. It is located in Sacramento and is a fantastic example of Neoclassical architecture.
Designed by architect M. Frederic Butler it was built between 1860 and 1874. The building's design is actually based on the Capitol building in Washington D. C.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and the Californian Historical Landmark register in 1974.
12. St Pauls Cathedral, London
Style: Neoclassical/English Baroque
Designed by the great architect Sir Christopher Wren, St Pauls Cathedral has a long history. The original church on the site was founded in AD 604, with the current cathedral dating back to the late 17th Century.
The construction of the cathedral was part of the major rebuilding program of London following the devastation of the Great Fire of London. It was completed in 1708.
Today it is one of the most recognized and famous buildings in the world and a must-see tourist attraction in London. The building's most prominent feature, the dome, has dominated London's skyline for over 300 years.
Despite being a magnificent building in its own right, it was crystallized in the British psyche during WW2, when it miraculously survived the Blitz. Famous images of it standing defiantly out of surrounding smoke and fire would come to symbolize Britain's resistance to the Nazi war machine.
13. The British Museum, London
The main core of the British Museum was designed by the architect Sir Robert Smirke in 1823. It consists of a quadrangle with four wings at each of the four main compass point directions.
The building was finally completed in 1852 and now includes galleries of classical sculpture and Assyrian antiquities. Smirke was heavily influenced by classical antiquity including Roman architecture.
Today it is a popular tourist attraction in the UK and attracts millions of visitors a year.
14. The Pantheon, Paris
The Pantheon in Paris is a Roman-inspired building in the Latin Quarter of Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve but now function as a secular mausoleum.
It is often cited as a fantastic example of neoclassical architecture and is ostensibly modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. Construction began in 1758 and was completed in 1790.
It was designed by architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot and famously contains the Foucault Pendulum.
15. The Reichstag, Berlin
The Reichstag, officially Deutscher Bundestag - Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude, is an iconic edifice in Berlin, Germany. It was designed by Paul Wallot and was built between 1884 and 1894.
The building was initially intended to house the German Parliament (the Bundestag), a purpose it fulfilled until 1933, when it was severely damaged during the infamous Reichstag Fire. After the conclusion of WW2, the building fell into disuse.
The ruins were made safe in the 1960s and were only fully restored in the early 1990s after German reunification.
16. L'Arc De Triomphe, Paris
L'Arc De Triomphe is probably the world's most famous triumphal arch, and one of Paris's most iconic landmarks. It stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle.
It was built to honor those who fought and died during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The names of notable French victories and generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. After the conclusion of the First World War, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added beneath its vaults.
The arch's design epitomizes Neoclassical design and was principally the work of architects Jean Chalgrun and Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury. It was directly inspired by the Triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome.
It was commissioned in 1806 and inaugurated in 1836. L'Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch in the world until the completion of the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City in 1938.
17. U.S. Supreme Court, Washington D.C.
The U.S. Supreme Court building was designed by Cass Gilbert and was built between 1932 and 1935. The need for a separate headquarters was argued for, successfully, by Chief Just William Howard Tuff in 1929.
Prior to this, the Court shared residence in the Capitol building until 1935. The final building was actually completed $94,000 under its budget of $9,740,000 ($136 million today).
Cass Gilbert decided to design the building in the Neoclassical style with public facades made from Vermont marble.
18. Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki
Helsinki Cathedral was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas 1 of Russia. It was known as St Nicholas' Church until Finland won its independence in 1917.
The original design was created by architect Carl Ludvig Engel with revisions being made later by Ernst Lohrmann.
Today it is one of Helsinki's most popular tourist attractions. It is estimated that around 350,000 people visit it each year. It holds regular services as well as special events like weddings.
19. Horse Guards, London
Horse Guards is one of the most famous and historic buildings in London. Construction began in 1750 and the building was completed in 1759.
It was originally built as a barracks and stables for the British Household Cavalry but later became an important military headquarters for the British Army.
Horse Guards originally served as the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall, later St James's Palace. It is for this reason that it is still ceremonially defended by the members of Queen's Royal Guard (Queen's Life Guard).
It was designed by William Kent, John Vardy, and William Robinson and was inspired by the fashionable Palladian style at the time.
20. Altare della Patria, Rome
Altare della Patria ("Altar of the Fatherland"), aka the Victor Emmanual II Monument, is a monumental building erected to honor the first king of the newly unified Italy, Victor Emmanual. The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885.
The final structure was inaugurated in 1911 and construction was completed in 1925. It is built in the neoclassical style and incorporates Corinthian columns, fountains, equestrian statues of Victor Emmanual, and statues of the goddess Victoria riding quadrigas.
Its enormous size of the monument has had its fair share of criticism both for its conspicuousness, size, and pompous design. Its construction also destroyed large parts of the ancient Roman Capitoline Hill.
21. The White House, Washington D.C.
Next up on our list of buildings influenced by Roman Architecture takes us back to the United States.
The White House was designed by James Hoban in the neoclassical style. Construction commenced in 1792 and President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved into the unfinished house in 1800.
During the disastrous War of 1812, British soldiers captured Washington and set the residence ablaze.
This act completely gutted the interior and damaged the exterior of the original building. Reconstruction and refurbishment works began immediately and were partially completed in 1817.
The South Portico was constructed in 1824, and Andrew Jackson oversaw the addition of the North Portico in 1829.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt began a major renovation, including the construction of the West Wing. Roosevelt’s successor, President William Howard Taft, had the Oval Office constructed within an enlarged office wing.
Less than fifty years later, the White House was showing signs of serious structural weakness. President Harry S. Truman began a renovation of the building in which everything but the outer walls were dismantled. The reconstruction was overseen by architect Lorenzo Winslow, was completed in 1952.
22. Union Station, Washington D.C.
Style: Mixed but mainly Neoclassical/Beaux-Arts
One of the United States' first great union railroad terminals, Union Station in Washington D.C. is yet another building inspired, in part, by the great architecture of the Roman Empire. It was designed by the highly renowned architect Daniel Burnham and officially opened its doors in 1907 -- but wasn't fully completed until 1908.
The station reached its heyday in the 1940s when it thrived as a transportation hub serving upwards of over 42,000 passengers a day. This enormous footfall took its toll on the building and repairs were often conducted cheaply, which diminished the building's aesthetics over time.
The rise of the personal automobile dramatically affected the building's utility and, in the 1950s, its owners began to search for alternative uses for the historical building.
Union Station was officially designated a historic landmark in 1964 and was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Also in the 1960s, the federal government took over the reins and converted it for use as a National Visitor Center.
Sadly, like so many publically managed projects, the conversion suffered from underfunding, poor design, and failure to keep up with changing tastes. The project was deemed a failure shortly after officially opening in the mid-1970s.
This once proud building hit its lowest point in the early 1980s when poor weather further damaged the already weakened roof causing it to collapse in places. The building was duly closed, subject to remediation works.
This led to the passing of the Union Station Redevelopment Act in 1981 that promised to rehabilitate and protect the building for future prosperity. The works were finally completed in 1988 and today it has returned as one of the busiest railway hubs and mixed-use buildings in the country.
Since then the building has undergone further refurbishment and extension works.
23. Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C.
Style: Neoclassical/Classical revival
Yet another famous modern building inspired by the architecture of the Romans is the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.
Built between the late-1930s to the mid-1940s, the building was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April of 1943.
Constructed in the neoclassical style, the building is situated in West Potomac Park on the shore of the Potomac River. The memorial stands in a line with the White House and was designed by the architect John Russell Pope.
The famous bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson, created by Rudolph Evans, was added later, in 1947. To any student of architecture, the memorial's overall form is very reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon and was, in part, an homage to Jefferson's own design of the rotunda at the University of Virginia.
The building itself is an open-air, circular structure that features a shallow dome supported by 26 Ionic columns. There are an additional 12 columns that support the northern portico and 4 columns that stand in each of the memorials' openings.
The main external structure is built from Imperial Danby marble sourced from Vermont and rests upon a series of granite and marble-stepped terraces. Internally, the monument is lined with white Georgia marble with an axed finish and a pink Tennesse marble floor.
Today, the building is managed by the National Park Service, and, in 2007, it was ranked fourth on the list of "America's Favourite Architecture" by the American Insitute of Architects.
24. Federal Hall, New York
Style: Neoclassical/Greek Revival
And finally, yet another building inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome is Federal Hall in New York. Situated in the heart of the equally famous Wall Street, the site is actually two separate structures: the original building completed in 1703 (and later demolished) and the more modern building completed in 1842 as a Customs House.
While, technically speaking, only the original 1703 structure was called "Federal Hall", both are part of the Federal Hall National Memorial, operated by the U.S. National Park Service.
The original structure first served as New York's city hall and was the site where the colonial Stamp Act Congress met to draft its historic message to King George III. The message was written in regard to the entitlement of American residents to the same rights as the residents of Britain under the famous protestation "no taxation without representation".
Following the tumultuous events of the American Revolutionary Wars, it was here that the First Congress of the Confederation first met in 1785. It also hosted the first Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices of the United States of America.
The building was officially renamed the Federal Hall after the establishment of the United States federal government in 1789. It was also here that George Washington was officially sworn in as the first-ever U.S. President before being demolished in 1812.
The current surviving building, formerly a Customs House, later served as part of the US Sub-Treasury.
So there you go, 21+ famous buildings inspired by Roman architecture. What other buildings or monuments would you like to have seen on the list?
Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.
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