Neoclassical Architecture: Important Things to Know

neoclassical architecture

Beautiful architecture can serve as enormous time capsules and serve to remind us of our history. Neoclassical style architecture speaks to the nature of the people in power and the values of those living at that time. These glorious structures around the world still take us back in time when we witness them today.

Definition of Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassical architecture emerged as a response to the Baroque and Rococo styles that came before. Neo means “new” and this style is known for rejuvenating classical themes and ideas from the Greek and Roman Era.

Time Period

Began the early eighteenth century and continued well into the nineteenth century.

Neoclassical Characteristics

The characteristics of neoclassical architecture embody class. The descriptors include:

  • Greater Scale
  • Emphasis on symmetry
  • Simple lines and structure
  • The Goal was to achieve perfection
  • Minimalist Decor
  • Clear Detail
  • Flat, dominating roofs
  • Dramatically large columns
  • Geometric Gardens

The Three Types

Neoclassical structures can be divided into three separate categories.

  • Temple style (resembles ancient temples)
  • Palladian style (references the concepts of villas)
  • Classical block (square or rectangular floor plan and flat roof layout)

Neoclassical Architecture in America

neoclassic buildings

The Western world has a habit of returning to old ways when we run out of new ideas. The saying “everything comes back” doesn’t only apply to fashion or trends, but also to architectural styles.

North American architects sought out to revive the Classical Era through the lens of their new understanding, invention, technique, and knowledge of the structure and that is what sparked the return of neoclassic architecture.

Some of the most prestigious and integral neoclassical buildings constructed in North America were built after the revolution and they still serve today as the foundations of cities and communities. One of the greatest neoclassical architecture examples in the United States of America is the glorious Capitol Building. Its grand and captivating qualities are still appreciated by experts and everyday tourists to this day. The construction of this important monument on Capitol Hill began in 1793 primarily under the design and direction of William Thorton, as well as countless other collaborators.

Thomas Jefferson had the goal of creating a replica of an ancient temple found in the Roman Era. This spoke to his neoclassical architecture style. These temples were examples of power and strength. The architects then went on to design the Capitol pulling inspiration from ancient Roman and Greek classics and decided to take a spherical approach to the structure.

A cast-iron dome and various north and south extensions were incorporated in the Capitol by esteemed architect, Thomas Walter, in the 1850s. This addition took place after the burning of Washington. Other examples of the Neoclassical Era can be found in state capitals across the country. These structures are still strong, maintained, and hold their relevance today.

European Neoclassical Architecture

french neoclassical architecture

Every major city in all of Europe has a connection to or resemblance to Neoclassicism. The memory of this era is kept alive through towering monuments, detailed churches, and grand buildings. Europeans were tired of the cluttered ornamentation of the Baroque and Rococo eras that came alive before they and intellectuals were soon obsessively preoccupied with Ancient Greece.

Architects soon began to place value on clean simple, yet spectacular design and drew from the classical elements. Examples of these elements are the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian details found on columns from Ancient Greece. Neoclassical characteristics of architecturу eventually became hard to miss as you walk through the streets of Europe.

The entire city of St. Petersburg, Russia was reimagined by Catherine ll and became a neoclassical hub. The collection of neoclassical works in this one city is unparalleled. Once Britain hit 1800, nearly every new architectural work was reminiscent of Neoclassicism. Famous architect Claud-Nicolas Ledoux was known for propelling this style in France. Soon all of Europe was immersed in this vision.

5 Examples of Neoclassical Architecture Style: Around the Globe

United States Supreme Court Building

United States Supreme Court Building

The building of this structure was completed in 1935. The intention of its design is to resemble an ancient marble temple. Architect Cass Gilbert illuminated the connection to classical Roman temples with a grand front staircase, intimidating Corinthian columns, and a central temple.

Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier

A beautiful example of French neoclassical architecture is the absolutely stunning Palais Garnier. Architect Charles Garnier began designing its construction in 1861 and it is now the most famous Opera in Paris. It is famous for its stunning magnitude of detail and ceiling paintings. You can still visit and witness performances at this beautiful masterpiece today.


neoclassic architecture

Originally a monument, this now stunning neoclassical church is home to Rome, Italy. It was constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus and has since been reworked into a beautiful Roman Catholic Church. It’s the magnitude and large columns barely seem real.

British Museum

British Museum

Founded in 1753, the British Museum is now known as a famous hub for human history and art. One of its many architects is Spencer de Gray and this large structure is hard to miss. It embodies Neoclassicism in Britain perfectly.

White House

neoclassical house characteristics

Complete with the typical neoclassical house characteristics, a classic example and symbol recognized by the world are the US White House. This prolific architectural monument continues to house Presidents and their families since its construction in 1792.

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