Famous Ancient Greek Architects

Instructor: Christine Gyovai

Christine has taught elementary, middle school and adult learners in a variety of settings, and she has a master's degree in urban and environmental planning.

Greek architecture provided a lasting foundation for design around the globe, and particularly for western architecture today. This lesson will look at famous ancient Greek architects and their lasting influence.

Ancient Greek Architecture Overview

Ancient Greek architects have provided a strong foundation for architecture today, particularly around the core elements of simplicity, harmony, perspective and proportion. Ancient Greek architecture includes some of the most iconic and important buildings in the world, many of which have had pieces removed and displayed in museums and galleries around the world. Greek architects introduced many basic building types that are still in use today, including the theatre and stadium. They also introduced the use of columns as a central building element. However, temples are the arena in which the influence of Greek architects shines most clearly.

Famous Ancient Greek Architects

There are a number of famous Greek architects whose buildings are still viewed today as some of the most significant buildings, or remnants of buildings, in the world. Few experiences rival standing in the Parthenon in present-day Greece and imagining ancient civic and religious life in Athens. Greeks architects tended toward marble for construction, though wood was in use as well. Temples were built from marble and wood. Over time, architects turned to limestone or white marble which was polished to resist water and provide a sheen.

It is helpful to become familiar with the orders of classical Greek architecture when learning about Greek architects. There are three orders of classical architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. An order is a particular style of architecture and of columns, which might include a base and an entablature (a structure that lies across columns horizontally and includes both decorative and structural elements). Wooden pillars over time evolved into the Doric column built in stone, which featured a column shaft that was wider at the bottom and had no base. Around 550 BC, the Ionic order introduced a slimmer, straighter pillar with more decorative elements to the column, including a base, and an entablature that was heavily carved. Finally, the Corinthian column was created around 500 BC, and included more ornamentation than the Ionic column, including fern and flower leaves. These three architectural orders have provided the foundation for many Greek buildings still standing, as well as many in ruins today.

Ionic Column Example
Greek column

The Parthenon is one of the most well-known Greek temples, constructed in the 5th century BC as part of the Acropolis, a complex of buildings constructed on a high hill in Athens. The temple was dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, and its main function was to house the large gold and ivory statue of Athena. Iktinos and Kallikrates were the architects credited with designing the Parthenon, though some sources such as the Roman architect and author, Vitruvius, also name Karpion as an architect as well. Although the Parthenon was heavily used, looted, and burned over time, it is still a centerpiece in the modern city of Athens.

The Parthenon in Athens

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