How Ancient Artifacts Can Inspire Modern Architecture

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Every ancient artifact has a story to tell. A story of a former civilization with an economy once alive and an ingeniousness to solving problems while creating aesthetics.

The architecture you now see is a direct descendant of these ancient artifacts. And the basic principles used then have stayed the same to date.

There have, however, been technological advancements since then. And the gap between old and modern structures is undeniable.

Do you want to learn about how ancient artifacts have inspired modern architecture? Then this article will teach you all you need to know.

The Cultural Aspect

Ancient artifacts indicate a way of life and status in society. Aesthetics and decoration skill-flaunting was one of them, and the old structures of the Greek temples and the mid-age castles are excellent examples.

The ancient Greeks, for instance, took great pride in designing their tall buildings to signify their kingdom’s greatness. As a center of worship, the Greek temples were known for their tall columns, inspiring modern architecture.

On the contrary, as ancient architecture mainly focused on the beauty rather than the functionality of their structures, most of them stood in ruins as the test of time took a toll. They have indeed made an inspiration in modern architecture to avoid making the same mistake. However, modern structures are also built with an eye for beauty but have functionality at their core.

Material-Wise

Ancient builders used locally available natural materials for their buildings. The likes of sand, clay, brick, and stone were the primary materials used to build permanent structures, and they still are. The materials also proved crucial for shaping as builders could easily carve them into domes and arches. Today, these shapes are the face of certain buildings with dome and arc designs.

The materials used to build ancient structures have also had a fair share of re-modification. Although the same materials, they are now used together with other materials to ensure permanence and can withstand the elements. For instance, stone houses are now built with concrete and steel, ensuring they can withstand earthquakes, heavy rains, and winds.

Unlike ancient days with structures made of finite resources, modern builders have chosen eco-friendly materials for their builds. The emphasis on an eco-friendly build is the main drive, driving architects away from the quarried stone and cut trees to green roofing and carbon-positive prefabricated homes.

There has also been an incorporation of colors in their builds. For example, ancient Egyptians used the color blue in their artifacts, like frescoes and sculptures, to signify peace and tranquility.

The color has transcended time as it’s still used in paintings and buildings, and if you are keen, you will find that most religious paintings also include the color blue. This is because many believe it evokes spiritual and emotional states in the viewers as it represents the sky, water, and other celestial beings.

The Ease-of-Build Factor

Even though ancient structures were aesthetically appealing, they took quite a long time to finish, some needing renovation right after the end of the build. Structures such as the pyramids of Egypt were estimated to take 15 to 30 years to complete the build. The roman empire is another example of how long it took to build as the city of Rome took around 1200 hundred years to build up. They do say Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Times have, however, changed in the modern building as technology takes the lead to shorten structures’ build time. Now, unlike ancient times, let alone a century ago, architects and engineers can generate designs through computer-aided design software that can efficiently deliver a design in less than an hour. As a result, architects have forgotten about miscalculating blueprints and making small mistakes in already cumbersome design work.

Materials are now more readily available as the manufacturing industry is growing daily.

Building has also become much easier and faster with the inception of prefab homes. You only need to order the parts and fit your dream home like a puzzle. Can it get any easier than that?

The Elements Factor

Ancient structures reacted differently to the elements depending on how they were built. Some, like the pyramids, have remained long-standing for 4600 years, while others, like the ancient Greek temples, remain in ruins. It all came down to material and style of build.

To guard themselves against the heat, the Egyptians built mud houses that kept the inside of the house cool, no matter what. Likewise, the ancient Chinese people built homes with courtyards to keep their interiors free of heat.

Asian ancestors in modern-day Papua Guinea and the Philippines raised their homes above the ground to stand against floods. And the people of ancient Mesopotamia built their homes in the shape of domes to withstand the harsh winds and hurricanes.

These ancient techniques have provided modern architects and engineers with foundational input on the do’s and don’ts when building structures that can withstand the elements.

The Sand Palace, a house on the Mexican beach, is excellent proof of how magnificent these ancient techniques are, as it was able to withstand hurricane Michael in 2018. The house was well elevated, with forty pillars above the ground to withstand flooding, and its steel cables and concrete ensured they withstood the strong winds.

For Human Comfort

Ancient architecture, especially for homes, was heavily invested in providing humans with as much comfort as possible. Whether against the elements or from wild animals, these structures did the job.

These ancient structures have heavily influenced modern architecture. The materials used, as well as the techniques, have provided a great insight into the achievability of comfort.

With modern technology, comfortability has now upscaled. Not only regarding the elements but also the lighting, the cooking, house chores, and the storage spaces, not compromising the aesthetics. Is the house too cold? The thermostat will fix that. Is it too hot? The fans and thermostat can fix that. Do you need light? Solar panels will do that. Need to drink water? No need to commute to the river.

Even in commercial buildings, ergonomics is practiced everywhere. Tall buildings are designed to remain insulated against extreme conditions. They also have elevators, so you don’t need to walk up to the 5th floor, and washrooms are at your beck and call.

Modern Architectural Examples Inspired by Ancient Artifacts

These are some of the modern architectures that were inspired by ancient artifacts

The Skytree, Tokyo

The Skytree is truly the epitome of modern engineering. Being the second tallest building in the world, with a height of 634 m, this telecommunication and broadcasting tower in Sumida, Tokyo, is hard to beat.

The Nikkei building company designed it in Japan in 2010. The building was inspired by a 1400-year-old pagoda in Nara, one of the oldest wooden buildings still standing in Japan.

It is a popular tourist destination in Japan, and its top is an observational deck that allows tourists to view all of Tokyo from the highest place. Besides being the main broadcasting center, the Skytree building also houses many shops, restaurants, and a planetarium.

The building is fitted with high-tech technology to provide aesthetics and human comfort.

Since Japan is a country of many earthquakes, the Skytree is built with a central pillar attached to seismic dampers, able to withstand any earthquake.

The Tokyo Skytree Tower by Hakan Nural
The Tokyo Skytree Tower by Hakan Nural

Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Germany

Another engineering wonder, Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, is a museum located in Germany and features works of various artists across all of Europe.

Built in 1500 by Archbishop Ernest of Saxony as an ancient castle, the museum has had its fair share of elemental battles. However, the building went through renovations from 2005 to 2008 under the designers; Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano.

After its successful renovation, the museum has become a highly coveted exhibition center for artists, with the most influential ones holding temporary and permanent exhibits. It also houses a center for art and paintings that date from the middle ages to date, and its famous period rooms educate visitors about the past generations and how they lived.

St. Antony’s College, England

St. Antony’s College was built in the 19th century and is the oldest university in the UK, built as a hub of learning for local and international students.

The famous designer Zaha Hadid gave the university a facelift, who designed a building structure that joins the buildings within the humanities and social sciences department in ancient and modern Arabia.

The structure is made of stainless steel and mimics Arabian culture, with both Neo-Gothic and Neo-Jacobean characteristics.

This structure is surrounded by well-manicured gardens and lakes, which adds to its aesthetic. No wonder the university is popular with international students.

The Union of Romanian Architects, Romania

The URA is an organization that deals in architectural best practices and standards in Romania.

As a result of its standing in the design world, it had to ensure they were at the top of the game.

The organization was, however, located in an old 19th-century building that had already been named a historical landmark; therefore, they could not demolish it. They, therefore, designed and built a building on top to fit modern designs, but still holding to the French renaissance of the original building. The building has been an architectural landmark since then.

The Union of Romanian Architects, Romania
The Union of Romanian Architects, Romania – WikiCommons

Final Thoughts

Ancient artifacts are genuinely a great inspiration for modern architecture. Studying ancient artifacts provides excellent insights into modern architects regarding materials, patterns, and building techniques.

The ancient Greek and Roman structures are among the most insightful ones in the world as they directly precede modernity. The sense of a paid homage to past architectural designs is truly undeniable with the modern designs now seen.

Borrowing from ancient designs will always create a timelessness that cannot be overshadowed, no matter the age.


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