Having established architecture’s foundations, the world’s cultures entered an era of architectural reverberation—an exploration marked by reflection, repercussion and repetition. During this time, architectural movements in the west refused and reinterpreted the foundations while movements in the east echoed the past.
400 CE saw the decline of Europe as power shifted from the Roman Empire to Western Asia and Byzantium. Religion became a key factor, transforming the cultural and physical landscape of the globe as Buddhism and Hinduism swept across Asia and Christianity took hold in Europe. Architectural expressions of faith gained prominence as colossal rock-cut Buddha figures, Hindu temples and Christian churches evolved around the notion of organized religion. In the east, introspection and enlightenment were found at sites such as the rock cut Ajanta Caves in India and the Angkor temples in Cambodia, where elaborate carvings encourage the eyes to dance across detailed surfaces. To the west, buildings of worship such as the Baptistery
At Ravenna and St. Peter’s in Italy utilized the dome and transept as large-scale worship became common.
In 600 CE, South American civilizations thrived as Mayan city-states competed for dominance and developed the most advanced calendar in the
world. In Eurasia, the Byzantine Empire dominated the Mediterranean and developed new architectural forms such as the brick dome, having forgotten the concrete construction methods of the past. The magnificent Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was constructed during this time and still stands as a shining example of the wealth and ambition of Byzantium. Meanwhile, Muhammed established Islam in the Middle East where the fine masonry craftsmanship of Greek and Hellenistic architecture was preserved. In Asia, a new building form known as the pagoda emerged as Buddhism slowly moved out of India and into Korea and Japan.
800 CE marked the rise of China’s T’ang dynasty located at the end of the Silk Trade Route, the new Islamic Kingdom, which stretched from Persia to Spain, the Khmer Kingdom of Cambodia and a new generation of Mayan city-states in Central America. Significant religious buildings such as the hypostyle hall, Dome of the Rock and the Borobudur stupa shrine were built during this time of rigorous religious and intellectual activity.
The turn of the millennium saw the decline of the Silk Trade Route due to upheaval in Northern China, which consequently led to the economic rise of Southeast Asia where alternate trade routes were built alongside thousands of new temples. In the Islamic world, the two political entities known as the Sunni and Shi’ite were taking form while great mosque and palace builders further developed an Islamic building aesthetic, which was integrated into the continental style to create the base for Gothic architecture in Europe. This blending of cultural styles is indicative of the global sensibilities that are beginning to manifest in architecture as a vision of the world is becoming clearer. Buildings of note during this time include the Canterbury Cathedral, the Rajarani Temple, the Great Mosque of Isfahan and the Baptistery of Pisa.
1200 CE was an era of architectural patrons in Asia who valued the influence of buildings on society. Substantial commissions across the continent resulted in new Hindu temples, Buddhist Pagodas and Palaces—all variations of the past, with replaceable parts that allowed for the upkeep and increased longevity of these sacred places. In the Christian world, cathedrals (the Gloucester Cathedral), pilgrimage churches (Notre-Dame de Reims) and mendicant churches (the Dominican Church of Toulouse) made an impact on the landscape, leading eyes upwards with striking vertical elements. Meanwhile, Mongolian invasions threatened growth in the Islamic world with the exception of Africa where the Trans-Saharan trade routes allowed for the construction of great earthen mosques like the Djenne mosque in Mali.
In 1400 CE, a new wave of urbanism swept across the globe where cities such as Seoul, The Forbidden City (Beijing), Mexico City and Cairo were transformed into the vibrant centers they are today. Hundreds of thousands were killed worldwide by the Black Plaque, which held back Europe’s economic development until the middle of the 15th century. In Latin America, the Incas dominated coastal trade routes, where they built roads and cities such as Machu Picchu, which were impressive examples of rubble masonry. In the Mediterranean, the Venetian Republic dominated trade and brought wealth to Italy where magnificent buildings such as the Florence Cathedral, Medici Palaces and Ca’ D’oro can still be seen.
1600 CE was all about relative political stability and efficient ocean trade, which moved wealth and ideas around the world at an amazing rate. Great thinkers such as Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci influenced European design from St. Peter’s Basilica to the Chateau de Chambord and ambitious buildings in Asia such as the Taj Mahal, and Dahai Lama’s Potala Palace added drama to the eastern aesthetic.
1700 CE saw the effects of full scale European colonialism, which spawned new port cities across the globe and founded the system of the Fort and Plantation, where local and enslaved people were transformed into workforces. This colonial activity inevitably resulted in an extreme amount of wealth and aristocratic privilege as a new high-bourgeois class led indulgent lives that included large-scale baroque architectural projects such as Versailles, the Hotel des Invalides and Place Vendome. Europe’s economic disparity coupled with heightened religious persecutions and costly wars created a sense of unease across the continent that would eventually lead to revolution. In Asia, The Quing Empire became the largest in Chinese history while in West and Central Asia, Islamic architecture went into decline as the region became an economically marginalized center.
In 1800 CE, the Enlightenment, conflicting colonial ambitions and the rise of the Industrial Revolution sparked a lot of radical change in the western world. New building types relating to industry and increased population developed in the form of factories, ports and prisons, while new government buildings were built including the new Houses of Parliament in London, the Virginia State Capitol, the US Capitol in Washington and the Somerset house in London. Innovative building techniques and materials, particularly iron challenged architects to rethink architectural forms as neo-Greek, and neo-gothic movements romanticized the past.