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The Three Orders of Greek Architecture

By Josh Antwhistle
First year Architecture

History and Theory Assignment Year 1

Introduction to Architectural History and
Introduction to Interior Architecture History
Module: BE1057 + BE1197
Word count: 1624

The Three Orders of Greek Architecture

By Josh Antwhistle

Greek architecture is a fine example of ancient architecture at its best.

The Greek architectural period provided some of the most idiosyncratic
buildings, temples, theatres and stadia that later provided inspiration to
following periods. There are three main orders in this movement, Doric,
Corinthian and Ionic; these orders were later used in roman architecture;
where they later developed their names. The Doric order was the earliest
out of the three orders, followed by the Ionic order found in fifth century
B.C.E, the last order of the three is the Corinthian order, and this is the
latest and most modern order developed by the Greeks and progressed by
the romans with small variations.
Doric orderOpening the three orders of Greek architecture is the Doric order; found in
7th century B.C. fundamentally applied in columns of Greek temples, as
shown in Figure 1 the diagram of the Doric order; this shows the different
sections of the Doric column. Figure 2 demonstrates how the columns are
placed close together and frequently without a base. Initially the Greeks
sculpted columns out of wood, an impermanent material, and then later
progressed on to permanent materials such as stone and concrete. The
Doric order is the oldest and undeveloped order of the three; this order is
identified by the heavy fluted columns with basic shaped capitals, also
another way to identify this order is by recognizing that this order does
not retain a base at the bottom of the column. A good example of this is
the Parthenon an ancient Greek temple constructed in 447-432 BCE; this
ancient Greek temple is a fine example of the Doric order. With a large
limestone base and Pentelic Marble columns these were materials that
had rarely been used pervious to this construction.

Figure 1- Diagram of the

Doric order

Figure 3- The Parthenon

Figure 2- The layout of the

Doric column

The corner conflict of the Doric orderThe corner conflict was a problem that lies within the Doric order, the
basis of the conflict was down to the fact of the columns commonly had a
Triglyph over each of them and one in the middle; this the meant that the
outer triglyph was always located in the corner, this then lead on to
another problem; the thickness of the architrave was wider than the
triglyph. This meant that what should have been the corner triglyph didnt
fall in the middle of the last column as seen in the diagram shown. One of
the only ways to avoid this conflict was to shorten the structure or make
the corner columns wider than the rest. This conflict later went on to the
Doric order being abandoned due to the vast amount of problems that lay
within the first order. Although this was a massive problem in the start of
Greek architecture it allowed the Greeks to then move on and develop the
way they construct architecture. The development of this then led on to
the next two orders; the Ionic order and the Corinthian order, which were
both used excessively throughout ancient architecture.

Figure 4- The Doric corner


Ionic orderFollowing the Doric order is the Ionic order, as the name suggests this
order originated in Ionia in the 6th century; regions off the coast of central
Greece. Central Anatolia (also known as Turkey) is fundamentally where
the Ionic order first publicized; Anatolia was a place where ancient Greek
settlements were located. The Ionic order has a distinctive form of sea
scrolls volutes on the columns as seen in Figure 4. Roman historian
Vitruvius compared this delicate order to a female form, in contrast to the
stockier "male" Doric order. The Ionic order was used for smaller buildings
and interiors unlike the Doric order that was used for larger buildings such
as temples; the reason for this was because of its delicate form, this
allowed the Ionic order to fit into interiors easier than the other two
orders. Also the more detailed volutes gave the Ionic order an advantage
of being added into an interior. A prime example of the Ionic order is The
Temple of Athena Nike located in Athens the capital of Greece. This temple

no doubt did double duty: it stood as a shrine to Athens patron goddess,

and also acted as a symbol of Athens military and political strength.

Figure 5- Diagram of the Ionic

order volutes

Figure 6- Diagram of the Ionic


Figure 7- The Temple of Athena Nike

Corinthian orderThe final order in Greek architecture is the Corinthian order; the most
modern and extravagant order of the three. The Corinthian order portrays
a more elegant approach to Greek architecture characterized by slender
fluted columns and elaborates capitals decorated with acanthus leaves
and scrolls. With the ornamental, elegant and decorative approach this
order was seen as the development of the two previous orders. As the
name suggests, the Corinthian order originated in the Greek city state of
Corinth. The earliest known Corinthian temple to date is temple of Apollo
Epicurius at Bassae dated 420 BC; created by the architect Iktinos, who
also worked alongside Kallikrates designing the Parthenon in 447-432
B.C.E. As seen in Figure 7 the level of dcor that the Corinthian order
brings to the final order of the three is astonishing how far the ornamental

features have come. According to architectural writer Vitruvius, the

sculptor Callimachus spotted a set of leaves surrounding a votive and
began to sketch them, this is where the initial idea of the ornamental
values of the Corinthian order came from. Promoting the Corinthian order
is the Temple of Olympia Zeus in Athens, began in 2nd century B.C.E and
took almost 700 years to finalise the structure due to the fact of the vast
amount of detail that this temple has.

Figure 8- Corinthian detail

Figure 9- Corinthian shafts

Figure 10- The Temple of Olympia Zeus (Athens)

The Legacy of Greek ArchitectureGreek architecture has a solid structure throughout its orders; it is rational
to say that the orders have been a colossal inspiration on later
movements, architects and imaginations of designers. Despite the fact
that Greek architecture plays a huge part of Roman architecture its legacy
springs further than ancient times. When James Athenian Stuart and
Nicholas Revett visited Greece during the period from 1748 to 1755 and
subsequently published The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments
of Greece (1762) in London, the neoclassical revolution was underway.
This then flourished the neoclassic movement allowing Greek architecture
to play a key part in the influence of another key movement.

Figure 11- The Parthenon

Throughout its time Greek architecture has given us some astonishing
temple, theatres and stadia. Not only did the Greek architecture become a
legacy but it also gave us the three orders, the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian
order, of which are described in the text above; alongside the orders a fair
amount of architects and sculptors were brought to light as well, this
allowed designers who were unheard of develop a name in history.
Subsequently after the Greek architecture period the romans took great
inspiration from the work that Greece had constructed alongside with the
three orders and the geometrical form; after all Greek architecture was
the start of geometry in architecture. As Ralph Waldo Emmerson stated
Greek architecture is the flowering of geometry. When the Roman period
started they adopted several Greek features, techniques and materials;

there for it is fair to say that Greek architecture was a main influence in
most Roman architecture, this is easily noticeable when looking at the two
in depth. Not only did the Greeks inspire the Romans but they inspired
many others in ancient and modern architecture, still to this day you can
see the Greek influence flourish in modern day buildings and interiors

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