Thursday, December 23, 2010

Technological Innovation in Ancient Greece – Architecture

Temple of Artemis on the island of Corfu.
When designing and engineering buildings, the ancient Greek architects faced several problems when trying to build higher and larger. For example, if we take a look at the pediment (the triangular upper-part on the façade of an ancient Greek temple), it is not simple to engineer such a feat without breaking the laws of physics—in other words, making it collapse under it's own weight.

Considering the the Temple of Artemis at Corfu as a case study, let's explore why. Although it is a relatively small temple, it is subject to the same laws as the bigger ones (such as the Parthenon).

The roof of the temple is to be slanted, and tiled on both sides, and thus a wooden structure is built to support it from beneath. The beams making up this structure would be placed on top the horizontal entablature (the decorated lintel), which is held up by the columns.

However, if the weight directly above the middle of the façade were to exceed it's limitations, the entablature could crack. Therefore, the structure has to be as light as possible.

Although a relatively small temple, it's still pretty big
when compared to a (pretty big) human.
The architects took this into consideration, so for the pediment they used a wooden frame and filled it with a light stone, such as limestone. The wooden frame held up the roof, and needed to be protected from rain (although a rarity) just like the inside of the temple–therefore, we see that filling up the pediment had other practical reasons too. Such innovations enabled the Greeks to decorate the façades of their temples to the fullest of potential, as they used light and generally waterproof materials.

Not only that, they used vivid colors—but just like all of the other ancient Greek buildings we see today, the Temple of Artemis at Corfu, all that remains is it's large, monotonous pediment. The original coloring has gone, and in many cases it's very difficult to reconstruct.

But good riddance! Right?

That's all for ancient Greece folks. But if you would like to read more about art history, you should take a look at our 'Art History 101'.

1 comment:

  1. pretty cool. i like the layout.