Neoclassical buildings have many (although not necessarily all) of these features:
- Symmetrical shape
- Tall columns that rise the full height of the building
- Triangular pediment
- Domed roof
In 1563, Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola outlined the principles of Classical architecture in a treatise titled The Five Orders of Architecture (compare prices). A few years later, another Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio, described his own approach to Classical architecture in The Four Books of Architecture (compare prices).
These books were widely translated and inspired builders throughout western Europe. By the 1700s, European architects were turning away from elaborate Baroque and Rococo styles in favor of restrained Neoclassical approaches. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the newly-formed United States also drew upon Classical ideals to construct grand government buildings and smaller private homes.
Famous Neoclassical Buildings
The word Neoclassical is often used to describe an architectural style, but Neoclassicism is not actually any one distinct style. Neoclassicism is a trend, or approach to design, that can incorporate a variety of styles. You'll find Neoclassicism in these historic house styles:
- Greek Revival
These stately, pillared homes became popular in the United States during the 1800s.
A Federalist building does not always have imposing pillars, but its symmetry and decorative details are classically inspired
- Antebellum Architecture
Stately plantation homes built before America's Civil War were often inspired by classical architecture.
- Beaux Arts Architecture
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, ancient Greek and Roman ideas were combined with balustrades, balconies, and lavish decoration.