January 18, 2018

Classic and Powerful: Neoclassical Architecture

A few months ago I started a series on the different architecture styles travelers usually come across in Europe.  So far we have covered Gothic  (Gothic Architecture of Europe), Romanesque (If it’s Tuesday, it must be Romanesque!), Baroque (Baroque: The Emotional Style), and Rococo (Rococo – Flirty & Decadent).

Continuing with this series, today’s post will delve into discovering Neoclassical architecture. This style came to prominence during the mid-18th century to make a symbolic statement against the extravagances of the past age.

Arc de Triomphe Paris France

Arc de Triomphe by Benh LIEU SONG

You could say Neoclassical architecture is the antithesis of Baroque and Rococo!  These styles were seen as over-the-top, shallow and the styles of aristocrats.  With the end of the French Revolution came a desire to move away anything having to do with “the regime” and towards a pure style, that of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Neoclassical architecture is very similar to the classical structures of Italy and Greece in its simplicity, symmetry and functionality.  Even though the style is the complete opposite of Rococo, it still is evocative and picturesque but in a self-restrained way.

Structures from the Neoclassical time will include most (if not all) of the following attributes:

Tall columns,

Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania

Vilnius Cathedral by Juliux

Clean basic lines replacing curves,

Prado Madrid Spain

Prado Madrid Spain by Fanghong

Shape is symmetric,

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland

Marynkas Palace in Pulawy Poland by Ghalas

Domed roof, and

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki Finland by Purpy Pupple

Triangular pediment.

Pantheon Paris France

Pantheon Paris France by Kpjas

All of this together reflects the virtue, philosophy and harmony of ancient Italy and Greece.  In this style, the emphasis is on enriching and influencing lives instead of frivolous aesthetics and can be seen in libraries, schools, banks, capital building and monuments.

The imposing structures convey a feeling of superiority in an intimidating manner.  This commanding presence was seen as way to demonstrate state power and was one of the reasons Napoleon used it so widely in Paris.    Taking it further, Neoclassical architecture was the favored style of Hitler and the leaders in communist Russia.

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia

Ostankino Palace in Moscow Russia by Ghirlandajo

Even though you may not have known the name of this style, I know you have seen it in Europe and across the world!


Do you have a favorite Neoclassic building or monument?

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  22. Emanuele says:

    Please, save a very important neoclassical architecture in Italy. It’s a wonderful italian Villa of Giuseppe Valadier and it’s in ruins. Just one vote here!

  23. althea villanueva says:

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  24. I am fascinated an in love with architecture and had no idea you did an entire series!! I am so glad I am following you now my friend!!! Wonderful pictures yet again!!!
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Yes I decided it was time I actually learned about the buildings I was looking at! Hopefully they have helped others too.

  25. Elisa says:

    I love this series! Especially because you show pictures of buildings in the same style all over the world! Great post.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I’ve enjoyed researching and writing it too! I am a visual person so it helps me to see the description.

  26. I really like the Washington Square Park Arch in NYC.

  27. Neoclassical – some of the most famous architecture in the world! For me, it’s in the middle. I think my faves are Baroque and Rococo.

    “If it ain’t Baroque, fix it!” (take out the don’t part) 🙂
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I didn’t know how much of the famous architecture was neoclassical. I’m not sure what my favorite style is. Your children are going to be shaking their heads at your humor one of these days very soon. . . I laughed though 🙂

  28. I love your architectural styles series. I learn so much 🙂
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  29. Bob Crunch says:

    Neoclassical architecture might be my favorite. I think the symmetry is what draws me to it. And I’m a sucker for columns. Great post!
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I really didn’t know about neoclassical architecture until I started researching this, so I was surprised when I recognized so many buildings and monuments!

  30. robin says:

    I share your enthusiasm for beautiful architecture – great posts!
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  31. I’m really loving your series on architecture! I can’t wait to see what’s next. 🙂
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thank Michael. It has been fun learning about the different styles of architecture I have been enjoying for so long!

  32. Ayngelina says:

    I found the Arc de Triomphe far more interesting than most architecture in Paris, including the Eiffel Tour, I guess I’m a neoclassical fan.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I was surprised that I too liked a lot of the neoclassical architecture! I do like Baroque and Rococo too though 🙂

  33. I’ve really enjoyed your European architecture series. I’m always fascinated by different styles, but am not an expert by any means. So it’s nice to get a bit more educated! Of course, in the U.S. we have some great neoclassical buildings, too — such as the Capital Building in Washington DC.
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      When I first started the series I knew nothing about the architecture and now feel a little more educated. When I was researching this topic I had visions of all the buildings in DC that are in the Neoclassical style!


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