Architectural History for studious beginners: Parliament of Vienna
The series of articles titled ‘Architectural History for studious beginners’ is addressed to those who are interested in architectural monuments but are not architects.
The Parliament of Vienna (1874-1883) is the work of Theophil Hansen, the Danish classicist architect who decorated Athens with some of its most imposing public buildings.
It is often said that the Vienna Parliament resembles the Academy of Athens (1859-1885), of the same architect. This is true but only to some extent. Below you will find out why.
Parliament of Vienna. The central body imitates an ancient temple. At the front stands the statue of Athena, as in the Academy of Athens
Neoclassical public buildings usually have the form of an ancient temple in the central body. On the side, however, there are wings added that do not resemble an ancient temple, because the temple alone could not meet modern needs.
It is a compromise between the desire to imitate antiquity and the need to meet modern needs.
The architects of classicism had as a model the Greek architecture of classical antiquity, unlike the Renaissance, where the model was ancient Rome .
Often, however, the needs imposed again the imitation of ancient Rome, as here. Because Vienna was an imperial capital, whose scale was much closer to the scale of ancient Rome than the scale of the small Greek city-state.
Therefore, in order to meet the needs of an imperial capital, the Vienna Parliament had to look for its standards in ancient Rome, although Hansen had studied and admired the Greek monuments and wanted to be inspired by them, as the Academy of Athens demonstrates (for the Academy, click here http://culturehikes.com/en/architectural-history-academy-athens/).
And these are the Roman and not Greek features of this building that resembles the Academy of Athens:
- It is raised on a podium.
- It has a monumental ramp.
- It is of Corinthian order. The Corinthian order was the Romans’ favourite because it was the most luxurious and decorated and was the most appropriate to express the greatness of Rome. On the contrary, the Greeks who invented it did not use it EVER in the buildings’ exterior, but only in the interior. It is no coincidence that the Academy of Athens is NOT of Corinthian order.
Parliament of Vienna. To meet modern needs, wings were added to the central body that has the form of an ancient temple. The enormous size, the Corinthian order and the podium are Roman features and do not characterise Greek architecture. At least not the architecture of classical antiquity
To see a typical Roman temple (the ‘Square House’ in Nîmes, France), which shows how the Vienna Parliament is inspired by them, click here
For more about Vienna, click here
To see the example of an Athenian building inspired by the ancient temples (Academy of Athens and Erechtheion), click here
and here (University of Athens and temple of Ilissus)
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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