Standing On The Shoulders Of Past Architects; Imitation Or Inspiration?

Every architect must confront the precedent of the Greeks and their legacy of design somewhere along in his or her career.  We first come into contact with their wonderful buildings much sooner than most of us know because, you see, the elements of design that they used are imitated throughout our daily environment in all the cities of western civilization.  From the U.S. Capitol to a little school house I saw out of the corner of my eye in Port Costa, California, to the styrofoam “columns” available on aisle 14 in your local Home Depot, (sorry about the indignity of it all Ictinus), Grecian architectural vocabulary is all around us.  We get a formal introduction to their work during history classes in architecture school and from then on we confront them in our own work.  Most of us try not to imitate and some of us go deeper into the roots, beyond the decoration of a Corinthian column, to understand and utilize the meaning in the precedents they established.  The Erectheion above, is a favorite of mine for the richness and variety of the design.  It was built around 400 B.C. It features prominently in the linked article  I wrote three years ago addressing this imitation, inspiration question.More Than A Pediment And Six Columns


2 Responses to “Standing On The Shoulders Of Past Architects; Imitation Or Inspiration?”

  1. May 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    One place I recommend people see if they can is a valley on Siciliy called the “valle dei templi” near Agrigento – truly stunning – once can see 3000 years of history and design on one small space, and intiutively grasp the evolution of proportionate design thinking during that span, girdling pre-Hellenic Greek, Golden Age Greek, and several later Roman edifices… truly amazing.

    And of course, post-1950’s interior design and architectural students all over the US similarly get a sub-rosa dose of American-interpreted Japanese design æsthetics too, though rarely as explicitly or as well defined as the sub-rosa Greco impact – and that’s another tradition worth delving into if one has the time: quite possibly even if one does not.

  2. September 2, 2014 at 11:56 am

    We build residential and I feel the same, it is sort of ingrained into your mind and subconscious. You want to be a free thinker and create your own unique structures but I use these same structural concepts all the time. At the same time I don’t want to imitate so I know what you mean!

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The Architectural Adventures Of Saxon Sigerson

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