Architectural styles text 2012

Architectural styles
Romanesque style 9th – 13th century
The term Romanesque, like many other stylistic designations, was not a term contemporary
with the art it describes but an invention of modern scholarship to categorize a period. The
term “Romanesque” attempts to link the architecture, especially, of the 11th and 12th centuries
in medieval Europe to Roman architecture based on similarities of forms and materials.
Romanesque architecture is characterized by the use of round arches, curved vaults (barrel
vaults), heavy pillars and relatively small windows. The great carved portals of 12th century
church facades parallel the architectural novelty of the period: monumental stone sculpture
was reborn in the Romanesque.
Brno: Church of St Giles, Brno-Komárov. Brno environs: Church of Sts Peter and
Paul, Řeznovice; St Catherine’s Rotunda, Znojmo – both SW of Brno. Portal of the
Cistercian abbey at Předklášteří, about 25 km NW of Brno.
Gothic style 13th – 16th century
Gothic architecture is typically associated with cathedrals and other churches (though it is
also found in secular buildings); the style flourished in Europe during the high and late
medieval period. Originating in 12th century France, it was referred to by contemporaries as
“the French Style”; the term “Gothic” first appeared in the 16th century, and was meant as an
insult. The style emphasizes verticality and features almost skeletal stone structures with great
expanses of glass, pointed arches, pointed vaults (ribbed vaults), clustered columns, sharply
pointed spires and pinnacles, and inventive sculptural detail such as gargoyles. These features
all reflected a wish to “open up” the interior space through the use of large stained-glass
windows that allowed more light to enter than was possible with older styles. To achieve this
“light” style, flying buttresses were often used as a means of external support to enable higher
ceilings and slender columns.
Brno: the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady (Staré Brno); St James’s Church
(Rašínova); cloister at New Town Hall (Dominikánské nám); carved portal to Old Town
Hall (Radnická 8-10).
Renaissance style 16th – 17th century (in the Czech lands)
Between the 14th and the 16th centuries there were the stirrings of a new cultural movement
that came to be known as the Renaissance (literally the “Rebirth”), because it revived and
developed certain elements of Classical Greek and Roman thought and material culture. The
cities of Italy in the early 1400s, and Florence in particular, were centres of the development
of the burgeoning Humanist ideas. The Renaissance brought a new emphasis on rational
clarity and with it a conscious revival of Roman architecture with its symmetry, its
mathematical proportions, geometrically-perfect designs and regularity of parts. Orderly
arrangements of columns and lintels, regularly divided surfaces, semicircular arches and
hemispherical domes replaced the haphazard proportions and irregular gabled facades which
preceded the new style.
Brno: spire of the Old Town Hall tower; House of the Lords of Kunštát (Dominikánské
9); Schwanz House (House of the Lords of Lipa – nám. Svobody 17)
Baroque style 17th – 18th century
The Baroque style used exaggerated motion and rich detail to produce drama, tension,
exuberance and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature and music. The style started around
1600 in Rome, Italy, and spread to most of Europe. The popularity and success of the Baroque
was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which favoured the arts communicating
religious themes through direct, emotional involvement. The secular aristocracy also saw the
dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and
expressing triumphant power and control. Baroque secular architecture is characterized by
elaborate sequences of courts, anterooms, grand staircases and reception rooms; Baroque
religious architecture employs rich, swirling ornamentation and a dramatic use of light. In
similar profusions of detail, art, music, architecture and literature inspired each other in the
Baroque cultural movement, as artists explored what they could create from repeated and
varied patterns.
Brno: St Thomas’s Church (Moravské nám); St Johns’ Church (Minoritská), Jesuit
Church (Jezuitská); Parnassus Fountain (Zelný trh [Cabbage Market]); the New Town
Hall (Dominikánské nám.)
Rococo style 18th century
The Rococo style of art emerged in France in the early 18th century as a continuation of the
Baroque style, but in contrast to the heavier themes and darker colors of the Baroque, the
Rococo was characterized by grace, playfulness and lightness, and a conscious attempt at less
formality and balance in design.
Brno: Reduta Theatre (Zelný trh [Cabbage Market] – exterior); Cathedral of Sts Peter
and Paul (nave and sculptures there)
Classicism 18th and early 19th century
In the middle of the 18th century, Europe began to move to a new style in architecture,
literature and the arts generally, known as Classicism. Though marked by a certain formality
and emphasis on order and hierarchy, the new style was also a cleaner style, one that favored
clearer divisions between parts, brighter contrasts and colors, and simplicity rather than
Brno: Mitrovský Summerhouse (na Nivkách), Denis Park (obelisk and pavilion)
Historicism second half of the 19th century
Beginning around 1840, earlier styles began to be adapted and reinterpreted, with their
elements being drawn on in eclectic fashion to create paraphrases of the earlier, original
styles. These have been termed historicizing, or “neo-”, styles – neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance,
neo-Baroque, etc.
Brno: Neo-Gothic: Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul; Red Church; University gymnasium
(Komenského nám); Neo-Renaissance: Besední dům (Komenského nám). NeoClassical: Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts (Komenského nám). Neo-Baroque:
Mahen Theatre (Malinovského nám.)
Art Nouveau style about 1890 – 1915
Hallmarks of the Art Nouveau style include flat, decorative patterns; intertwined organic
forms such as stems or flowers and, in general, sinuous, curving lines; the unusual use of
colours; and, in the applied arts, an emphasis on handcrafting as opposed to machine
manufacturing. In the Czech lands, the style is known as “Secese” (“Secession”); in Austria,
“Sezession”; in Germany, “Jugendstyl” (“Youth style”).
Brno: the Art Nouveau addition to the Grand Hotel (Benešova 18/20); Art Nouveau
building at Minoritská 8; Art Nouveau building at Veveří 14; Jurkovič Villa (Jana
Nečase 2, Brno-Žabovřesky)
Modernism about 1900 – 1925
Partly a reaction to Historicism and Art Nouveau, Modernism stripped away ornamentation
and stressed form and experimentation with new (and sometimes quite expensive) materials.
Brno: Reissig Villa (Hlinky 148); Church of the Divine Heart, Brno-Husovice;
Jarůšek House (Palackého 65); District Health Payments Office (Milady Horakové
24/26); District Sickness Fund (Nerudova 11)
Functionalism about 1910 – 1940
In architecture, it is the principle that the design of a building should be based on the purpose
of that building – “Form follows function.” The term is used loosely for a number of different
movements and individuals, in particular the Bauhaus in Germany, led by Walter Gropius and
Mies van der Rohe (“Less is more.”), and the Swiss architect Le Corbusier (“A house is a
machine for living in.”). Many Functionalists were strongly committed socially, being
convinced that good design could actually help to improve society; they were concerned with
designing not only commercial properties and private homes and but also mass housing.
Interwar Czechoslovakia was one of the major centres of Functionalism; the greatest
concentration of Functionalist architects and buildings was to be found in Brno.
Brno: Villa Tugendhat (Černopolní 45); Zeman Café (Jezuitská 6); Era Café
(Zemědělská 30); buildings at the Brno Exhibition Grounds
See also the Brno Architecture Manual (, an amazing online guide to architecture in Brno from 1918 to 1945.