The Ideology of Design: Proportion and Disproportion in Classical Architecture

By Aaron Brown.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper examines the influence of classical architecture on Western Civilization. Focusing on the ideology of design, I argue that the disparity between philosophical ideals and social practices in the cultures that produced or imitated ancient Greek and Renaissance Italian styles generated ironies that were not visually critiqued until the postmodern period. Classical architectural style was especially influential in Europe and America during the eras of Grand Tours, when travel to Italy and Greece grew popular. Some, struck by the beauty and import of the architecture, emulated the styles upon returning from their Tours. Many imitated the classical architecture, some even aiming to surpass or possess the styles; but while echoing the design elements, the travelers ironically also mimicked the contradictions the original buildings embodied. Ancient Greek civilization signified democracy, and it shared with the Roman style an emphasis on order, symmetry, and rationality. Yet classical architecture developed in regions predicated on social and economic inequality. The disproportion of political practice undermined the ideals of proportion that the architecture manifested. Only in the postmodern era were the contradictions both represented and visually critiqued.

Keywords: Design, Classical Architecture, Cultural Ironies

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.251-262. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.201MB).

Aaron Brown

Student, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

A student of architecture at Princeton University, I am interested in the principles and practices of design. Specifically, I am working on urban design and its cultural contexts.

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