History of Global Architecture

Last updated October 28, 2022

What was the most important temple in ancient Rome? Where are Inca ushnu located? Who was Le Corbusier? Why was Great Zimbabwe abandoned? This course surveys the history of global architecture from the prehistoric to the present. Explore the Parthenon, discover Angkor Wat—the world’s largest temple, enter the soaring cathedrals of Gothic France. Along the way we contemplate ancient gardens in China and Japan, visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, and examine designs for the 21st century.



Jericho, beginning c. 9000 B.C.E, West Bank

Çatalhöyük, c. 7000 B.C.E., Turkey

Stonehenge, beginning c. 3100 B.C.E., Salisbury Plain, England
Nuragic architecture at Su Nuraxi Barumini, Sardinia, beginning 18th century B.C.E.


Terms and concepts to know:

  • fossilized pollen
  • Joshua
  • Paleolithic
  • Neolithic
  • henge
  • Ozieri
  • Bonnanaro
  • Bronze Age
  • Tell
  • Çatalhöyük
  • bucrania
  • mortise
  • tenon
  • heptalobate

Ancient Near East

The cradle of civilization

White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk, c. 3517-3358 B.C.E

Archaeological reconstructions

Neo-Sumerian/Ur III period
Seated Gudea holding temple plan, c. 2100 B.C.E.
Ziggurat of Ur, c. 2100 B.C.E.



Neo-Babylonian culture, the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way, c. 575 B.C.E., quiz
Visiting Babylon



Ancient Persia, an introduction
Persepolis: The Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes, c. 520-465 B.C.E.

Capital of a column, audience hall of the palace of Darius I, Susa, c. 510 B.C.E.

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Tigris and Euphrates
  • Mesopotamia
  • ancient Near East
  • Sumer, Ur, Uruk, Susa
  • Sumerians, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Achaemenid/Persian
  • city-state
  • Theocracy
  • mud brick
  • Apādana
  • bitumen
  • citadel
  • monotheism
  • polytheism
  • ziggurat
  • Anu
  • gypsum
  • Achaemenid
  • Mithra


Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt, an introduction


Old Kingdom

Pyramids of Giza, quiz

Pyramid of Khufu, c. 2551-2528 B.C.E.

Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx, c. 2520-2494 B.C.E.

Pyramid of Menkaure, 2490-2472 B.C.E.


New Kingdom

Temple of Amun-Re and the Hypostyle Hall, Karnak
Mortuary Temple and Large Kneeling Statue of Hatshepsut, c. 1479-58 B.C.E.


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Nile
  • Upper and Lower Egypt
  • Old, Middle and New Kingdoms
  • hieroglyphs
  • pyramidion
  • Amun-Re
  • obelisk
  • pylons
  • pharaoh
  • Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure
  • Ka
  • mastaba
  • boat pit
  • hypostyle
  • clerestory

Aegean Early Greece

Ancient Greece, an introduction

The Palace at Knossos (Crete)



The “Palace” and Grave Circle A, Mycenae, c. 1600-1100 B.C.E.

Lion Gate, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E., quiz

The Treasury of Atreus, c. 1300-1250 B.C.E.


Archaic (c. 700-480 B.C.E.)

Introduction to Greek architecture

Classical orders

Temples at Paestum, 560-460 B.C.E.
Pan-Hellenic sanctuary, Delphi

Siphnian Treasury, Delphi, c. 530 B.C.E.


Early Classical (c. 480-448 B.C.E.)

East and West Pediments, Temple of Aphaia, c. 490-480 B.C.E.


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Aegean
  • Minoan
  • Mycenae
  • orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
  • pediment
  • Archaic, Classical
  • capital
  • tholos
  • corbelled arch
  • bouleuterion
  • andron
  • gynaikeion
  • palaestra
  • fountain house
  • agora
  • abacus
  • entasis
  • stylobate
  • Magna Graecia
  • polychrome
  • fluting
  • cyclopean
  • megaron
  • Peloponnese
  • Ionia
  • prostyle
  • peripteral
  • dipteral
  • stoa

Classical, Late Classical, and Hellenistic Greece

Classical (c. 448-429 B.C.E.), quiz

The Athenian Agora and the experiment in democracy

Iktinos and Kallikrates, Parthenon, Athens, 447-32 B.C.E., quiz

The Erechtheion, 421-405 B.C.E., Acropolis, Athens

Caryatid (South Porch) and Ionic Column (North Porch), 421-407 B.C.E.
Temple of Athena Nike, 421-405 B.C.E.


Hellenistic (323-31 B.C.E.)

Pergamon Altar, c. 200-150 B.C.E., quiz


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Acropolis
  • triglyph
  • entablature
  • frieze
  • metope
  • Pericles
  • Olympian, Mount Olympus
  • Pentelic marble
  • cella
  • amphiprostyle
  • monolithic
  • Persian War
  • caryatid
  • Nike
  • Sparta
  • Peloponnesian War
  • Hellenistic
  • Democracy
  • volute
  • parapet
  • sacred precinct
  • frieze

Etruria and Early Rome

Etruscan, quiz

The Etruscans, an introduction

Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia, c. 470 B.C.E.
The François Tomb, Vulci, 4th century, B.C.E.
Tomb of the Reliefs, late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.E., Necropolis of Banditaccia


Rome, an introduction, quiz

Ancient Rome flyover

Digging through time

Introduction to ancient Rome

Introduction to ancient Roman architecture
The Domus
The Insula

The Villa
The rediscovery of Pompeii and the other cities of Vesuvius
Pompeii, an introduction


Roman Republic

Roman Forum

Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Rome, 6th century B.C.E. – 5th century C.E.
Tomb of the Scipios and Sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus, early 3rd century B.C.E.

Temple of Portunus, travertine, tufa, stucco, Rome, c.120-80 B.C.E.


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Etruria, Etruscan
  • Iron Age
  • triclinium
  • Romulus and Remus
  • amphitheater
  • tablinum
  • cubicula
  • atrium Tuscanicum
  • atrium tetrastylum
  • atrium Corinthium
  • opus caementicium
  • tufa
  • concrete (opus caementicium)
  • arch, voussoirs, keystone, impost
  • aqueduct
  • dromos
  • atrium
  • impluvium
  • compluvium
  • triclinium
  • fauces
  • latifundium

Imperial Rome

Early Empire

Maison Carrée, c. 4-7 C.E., Colonia Nemausus (Nîmes, France)

Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), 13-9 B.C.E., quiz
House of the Vettii, before 79 C.E., Pompeii
Colosseum (Amphitheatrum Flavium), Rome c. 70-80 C.E., quiz

Arch of Titus, Roman Forum, after 81 C.E.
Writing a history of Jewish architecture

Imperial Fora, an introduction

Apollodorus of Damascus, Forum of and Markets of Trajan, Rome, dedicated 112 C.E.

Column of Trajan, Rome, completed 113 C.E., quiz

Petra: rose red city of the Nabataeans
Petra: urban metropolis
Petra: rock-cut façades



Palmyra: the modern destruction of an ancient city
Temple of Baalshamin, 1st century C.E.

Temple of Bel, 1st and 2nd century C.E.

Middle Empire

The Pantheon, Rome, c. 125 C.E., quiz

Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, c. 117-138 C.E.

Maritime Theatre, Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, c. 117-138 C.E.


Late Empire

Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (Basilica Nova), Roman Forum, c. 306-312

Arch of Constantine, Rome, 315 C.E., quiz


Terms and concepts to know:

  • precinct
  • Flavian
  • forum, fora, Imperial fora
  • Via Sacra
  • villa
  • Constantine
  • oculus
  • monolith
  • spolia
  • architrave
  • pronaos
  • oecus
  • basilica
  • apse
  • rondel
  • theatre, amphitheatre
  • Tiber
  • Capitoline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Esquiline Hills
  • colossus
  • Vitruvius
  • pseudoperipteral
  • culina

Early Christian & Byzantine

Introduction to the Medieval era, quiz

Introduction to the Middle Ages

Architecture and liturgy


Early Christian

Early Christianity, an introduction

Classicism in the Early Middle Ages
Early Christian architecture after Constantine
Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, late 2nd century through the 4th century C.E.
Santa Maria Antiqua, Roman Forum, consecrated 6th century

Basilica of Santa Sabina, Rome, 422-432, quiz

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, 425 C.E., quiz


Byzantine (Late Roman Empire), quiz

A beginner’s guide to Byzantine Art

Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, Hagia Sophia, Constantinople (now Istanbul),     532-37, quiz

San Vitale and the Justinian Mosaic, Ravenna, begun in 526-27, consecrated 547, quiz

Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice, begun 1063, Anastasis mosaic, c. 1180-1200


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Middle Ages
  • Medieval
  • liturgy
  • catacomb
  • Aventine Hill
  • Ravenna
  • Galla Placidia
  • bema
  • basilica
  • synagogue
  • Ostrogoths
  • Byzantium, Byzantine
  • Constantinople, Istanbul
  • Justinian
  • pagan
  • pendentive
  • Dura-Europos
  • central plan
  • crossing
  • nave

Carolingian revival quiz

Charlemagne: an introduction, Part 1, Part 2
Palatine Chapel, Aachen, dedicated 805


Terms and concepts to know:

  • mystery cult
  • polytheism
  • monotheism
  • Charlemagne
  • Carolingian
  • Frankish kingdom
  • floor plan
  • ambulatory
  • Alcuin of York
  • Aachen
  • Otto, Ottonian
  • feudal
  • monastic
  • gallery
  • mausoleum
  • apse

Architecture in South and East Asia

Caves of Ajanta
Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Naidu
Shore Temple, Mamallapuram




Longmen Caves, Luoyang
Mogao caves at Dunhuang

Shi Zhengzhi, Master of the Nets Garden, 12th century (Southern Song Dynasty), Suzhou
Forbidden City






Ancient Americas


Chavín de Huántar

Teotihuacan Culture




Ancestral Puebloan
Mesa Verde

Chaco Canyon


Mexica (Aztec)


The destruction of the Templo Mayor (Mexico City)


City of Cusco
Machu Picchu

The Islamic World

Introduction to Islamic art, quiz

Kaaba, pre-Islamic, rededicated by Muhammad, 631-32 C.E.

Introduction to mosque architecture

Common types of mosque architecture

About chronological periods in the Islamic world

Early Period

Arts of the Islamic World: the Early Period

Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhra), Jerusalem, 691-92, quiz

Great Mosque of Cordoba, begun 786 and enlarged 9th and 10th centuries, Spain, quiz

Great Mosque of Kairouan, c. 836-75, Tunisia

Medieval Period

Great Mosque of Isfahan, Iran, quiz

Mihrab (niche), 1354-55 (A.H. 755), Isfahan, Iran

The Alhambra, begun 1238, Spain, quiz


Jewish architecture in Muslim Spain
Medieval synagogues in Toledo, Spain

Late Period

Hagia Sophia as a mosque after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453
Mimar Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, completed 1558

Mimar Sinan, Mosque of Selim II, Edirne, Turkey, 1568–75

Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53


Jewish architecture in Syria
Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, Jobar (Syria)

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Kaaba
  • Muhammad
  • Qur‘an
  • pilgrimage
  • Mecca, Medina
  • Night Journey
  • caliph
  • Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottoman
  • mosque, qibla, mihrab, minaret, sahn, maqsura, iwan
  • hypostyle
  • muqarnas
  • squinch
  • pier
  • stucco

Late Medieval

Medieval churches: sources and forms

Introduction to the Romanesque

A beginner’s guide to Romanesque architecture

Medieval churches: sources and forms

Pilgrimage routes and the cult of the relic

Romanesque architecture, quiz
Tuscan Romanesque
The art of conquest in England and Normandy
Durham Cathedral, begun 1093
Southwell Minster

Cluny Abbey, Burgundy, France

Church and reliquary of Sainte-Foy, late 10th-early 11th century, Conques

Gothic art and architecture, quiz

Gothic architecture: an introduction

Stained glass: history and technique (essay from the Getty)

How stained glass is made (essay from the Getty)

Birth of the Gothic: Abbot Suger and the ambulatory at Basilica of Saint Denis, 1140-44, quiz

Chartres Cathedral, c.1145 and 1194 – c.1220, quiz
Reims Cathedral, begun 1211

Amiens Cathedral, begun 1220
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, 1248

Salisbury Cathedral, begun 1220

Lincoln Cathedral, begun 1088
Wells Cathedral, begun c. 1175
Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel

Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey, London, begun 1503

Czech Republic
Altneushul, Prague, begun 13th century


Terms and concepts to know:

  • Romanesque
  • Gothic
  • pilgrimage
  • relic, reliquary
  • portal
  • tympanum
  • archivolt
  • trumeau
  • lintel
  • jamb
  • cloister
  • buttress
  • flying buttress
  • apse
  • aisle
  • nave  
  • narthex
  • clerestory
  • choir
  • transept
  • crossing
  • ambulatory
  • chapel
  • radiating chapels
  • gallery
  • arcade
  • altar
  • vaulting
  • barrel vault
  • groin vault
  • Norman invasion


Nan Madol, 13th-17th century C.E., Pohnpei, The Federated States of Micronesia


Africa (c. 1300s – 1400s)


Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania
Great Zimbabwe
Christian Ethiopian architecture and art
Great Mosque of Djenné
Kasbah Taourirt: Conserving Earthen Heritage in Morocco


The Renaissance in Italy: Sculpture & Architecture (c. 1400s)

    Old Sacristy, c. 1421
    Dome, 1420-36, quiz
    Pazzi Chapel, begun 1420s, quiz
    Santo Spirito, 1428-81

    Palazzo Ruccellai, c. 1446-51, quiz
    Façade of Santa Novella, 1470
    Sant’Andrea, Mantua, 1472-90

Terms and concepts to know:

  • guild
  • civic pride
  • republic
  • secular
  • pilaster
  • niche
  • Pietra Serena
  • coffer
  • barrel vault

Renaissance in Venice (c. 1400s-1500s)

Ca’ d’Oro, 1422-40
Palazzo Ducale, 1340 and after
Saving Venice


    La Rotunda, 1566-1590s
    Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza, Italy, 1580-85


The Reformation and Counter-Reformation

The Protestant Reformation, quiz
Setting the Stage, part 1
Martin Luther, part 2
Varieties of Protestantism, part 3
The Counter-Reformation, part 4

The High Renaissance in Italy (c. 1500s)

    Tempietto, c. 1502
    St. Peter’s Basilica, begun 1506, completed 1626

    Michelangelo, painter, sculptor and architect
    Medici Chapel (New Sacristy), 1519-34
    Laurentian Library, begun 1524, opened 1571

Renaissance in Spain
El Escorial, begun 1563, near Madrid, Spain


The Colonial Americas

Introduction to the Spanish Viceroyalties in the Americas

Viceroyalty of Peru

Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, 1570-1606


Colonial Brazil
Church of São Francisco de Assis (St. Francis of Assisi), c. 1766-94, Ouro Preto

Viceroyalty of New Spain
New Spain, an introduction
The Convento of San Nicolás de Tolentino, Actopan, Hidalgo
Mission Church, San Esteban del Rey, Acoma Pueblo



Terms and concepts to know:

  • Vatican
  • Pope Julius II
  • Sistine Chapel
  • prophets
  • sibyls
  • papacy/papal


Baroque Art, Rococo, and Neoclassicism (c. 1600-1800)

Italy quiz

    Baldacchino, 1624-33
    Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 1647-52, quiz
    Cathedra Petri, 1647-53
    St. Peter’s Square, 1656-67

Francesco Borromini, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, consecrated in 1646, Rome

Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta, Church of Il Gesù, 1584, Rome


Dutch Republic quiz

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Interior of Saint Bavo, Haarlem, 1631

Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, Netherlands, begun 1645
Jacob van Campen, Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam, formerly Amsterdam Town Hall, 1648-65

Louis le Vau, André le Nôtre, and Charles le Brun, Château de Versailles, 1664-1710
Claude Perrault, East façade of the Louvre, 1663
Introduction to the age of the Enlightenment
Pierre-Alexandre Vignon with Jacques-Marie Huvé, Church of La Madeleine, 1807-45, Paris
Jacques-Germain Soufflot, Church of Ste-Geneviève (now Le Panthéon), 1755-90, Paris

Inigo Jones, The Banqueting House, Whitehall, 1619–22, London
Christopher Wren, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, begun 1675, completed 1711, London

United States
Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, 1770-1806, Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson, Rotunda, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Terms and concepts to know:

    • Reign of Terror
    • absolute monarchy
    • divine right of kings
    • Enlightenment
    • Oranjezaal
  • stadtholder
    • festoons
    • Burgerzaal
  • Académie française
  • Ste-Geneviève
  • ancien regime
  • aristocracy
  • Jacobin
  • empiricism
  • château
  • Sun King
  • Cour Carrée
  • rusticated
  • Intercolumniation
  • presence chamber


19th Century

John Nash, Royal Pavilion, 1815-23, Brighton, England

Charles Barry & A.W.N. Pugin, Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament), 1840-70
Robert Smirke, South Portico, built 1846-47, The British Museum, 1823-57
William Butterfield, All Saints Church, designed 1849, consecrated 1859, London
William Morris and Philip Webb, Red House (garden with well), 1860, Bexleyheath, England

Second Empire
Haussmann the Demolisher and the creation of modern Paris
Charles Garnier, The Paris Opéra, 1860-75

Antoni Gaudí, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, 1882- , Barcelona
Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Métropolitain, c.1900

United States
Seneca Village
Olmsted and Vaux, Central Park
Robert Mills and Thomas Lincoln Casey, Washington Monument, completed 1884
Laboulaye, Bartholdi, Eiffel, Hunt, Statue of Liberty, installed 1886

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Regency England
  • picturesque
  • East India Company
  • John Ruskin
  • Know-Nothings
  • Niebelungenlied
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Second Empire
  • The Mall
  • Greensward


20th and 21st Centuries

Carrère & Hastings, The New York Public Library, 1902 and after, New York City
Louis Sullivan, Carson, Pirie, Scott Building, 1899 and 1903-04, Chicago
Peter Behrens, Turbine Factory, 1909-10
Otto Wagner, Postal Savings Bank, Vienna, 1904-06 and 1910-12
Cass Gilbert, Woolworth Building, 1913 (New York City)
Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye, Poissy, France, 1929
Paul Troost, House of (German) Art, 1933-37
Van Alen, The Chrysler Building
Rockefeller Center, 1933
Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), 1935-38, Bear Run
Glass Chair at the 1939 New York World’s Fair
Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Lever House, 1951-52, New York City
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Seagram Building, 1958
A Landmark Decision: Penn Station, Grand Central, and the architectural heritage of NYC
Marcel Breuer, The Whitney Museum of American Art (now The Met Breuer), 1963-66
Robert Venturi, John Rauch, Denise Scott Brown, House in New Castle County, 1978-83
Contemporary Native American Architecture
Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 1993-97
Zaha Hadid, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, 1998-2009 (opened 2010)

Terms and concepts to know:

  • École des Beaux-Arts
  • parti
  • Carrère & Hastings
  • McKim, Mead & White
  • AEG
  • Deutscher Werkbund
  • Wiener Werkstätte
  • Building-as-machine
  • Five Points of Architecture
  • pilotis
  • ribbon windows
  • free façade
  • free plan
  • L’Esprit Nouveau
  • Corbu
  • béton brut
  • I-beam
  • adobe
  • Chicago School
  • decorative program
  • Vienna Secession
  • empiricism
  • Adler & Sullivan
  • gesamtkunstwerk
  • functionalist architecture
  • steel-frame  
  • 1916 Setback Law
  • Art Deco
  • channel gardens
  • streamlined moderne
  • city within a city
  • Taliesin
  • organic architecture
  • cantilever
  • American vernacular
  • Deconstructivism