History Of Construction Technology Of Essay

Length: 24 pages Sources: 72 Subject: Architecture Type: Essay Paper: #54599726 Related Topics: Mesopotamia, Gothic Architecture, Building Construction, Alexander Graham Bell
Excerpt from Essay :

Staircase ramps which are comprised of steep and narrow steps that lead up one face of the pyramid were more in use at that time with evidence found at the Sinki, Meidum, Giza, Abu Ghurob, and Lisht pyramids respectively (Heizer).

A third ramp variation was the spiral ramp, found in use during the nineteenth dynasty and was, as its name suggests, comprised of a ramp covering all faces of the pyramids leading towards the top. Reversing ramps zigzag up one face of a pyramid at a time and would not be used in the construction of step pyramids, while lastly interior ramps that have been found within the pyramids of Sahura, Nyuserra, Neferifijata, Abusir, and Pepi II (Heizer, Shaw).

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek architecture exists mainly in surviving temples that survive in large numbers even today and is tied into Roman and Hellenistic periods which borrowed heavily from the Greeks. Temples are unlike modern churches due to the altars being open to the elements while interior spaces were devoted to storage and treasuries (Penrose).

Greek culture, and eventually Roman, was much more advanced in terms of the structure of a city state with many people living within ancient cities requiring more sophisticated building and architecture. Moving past mud bricks like the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks used stone to build monument walls which supported the first tiled roofs, the earliest evidence of which was at the temples of Poseidon and Apollo in Corinth between 700 and 650 B.C. (Goldberg). The spread of tiled roofs which were constructed with an S-shape pan and cover tile forming one continuous piece was rapid and expansive reaching to Western Asia Minor (Wikander). Although they were labor intensive and costly, the benefit in fire resistance made them essential to temple construction (Wikander).

The most well-known and persistent feature of Greek architecture is the column which established three separate types with the Doric being the most famous (Benson). Doric columns can be seen in the Parthenon and are created by having a capital or crown built of a circle and topped by a square, while the shaft is plain and has twenty sides with no base (Thompson, Papadopoulou and Vassiliou).

Simple machines, a marriage of the lever, pulley and screw were also birthed in Ancient Greece through Archimedes in the 3rd century B.C. (Ostdiek). Archimedes, however, was ignorant of force and distance moved which Heron discovered in 10-75 a.D. And increased the components of a simple machine to include the winch and wedge (Strizhsak). These five tools existed to make work easier (Singer, Holmyard, and Hall) and became the simple machines that are wheels, screws, pulleys, levers, inclined planes, and wedges (Koloski-Ostrow) which all work to change the direction and degree of force. Mechanical advantage through the increase of output to input force made loads easier to move and increased overall production (Anderson). The innovation of the crane, winch and pulley, watermill, wheelbarrow, and odometer all impacted what is perceived as an ancient technological boom (Anderson).

The evolution of the crane which was comprised of a wooden beam, or boom, attached to rotating base with rope wound around a drum driven by a wheel with rope attached to one end of the boom and the other free to be hooked onto heavy loads, usurped the need for ramps (Coulton). The push away from ramps was due to a preference for small groups of skilled labor and may have been facilitated by a need from the Greek military (Coulton). The invention of watermills was the first use of hydropower by a civilization and was possible through the use of a water wheel or turbine that powered some mechanical process (Wilson).

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire borrowed and built open the work completed by the Ancient Greeks, adding the arch. No small thing, the arch revolutionized construction and architecture itself. The less supportive post and lintel structures of Ancient Greece now had the superior strength of the arch which eventually begat the dome (Allen). Arches allowed the construction of larger buildings than ever before with the addition of scaffolding held in place by keystones spread evenly down the bottom of an arch and provide stability (Onians).

The most famous example of innovation through architecture is the...


Composed of two levels of arches, the aqueducts could carry water from far away locations in the hills or reservoirs close to the city-state revolutionizing human life thus far (Mark & Hutchinson). The arch stands still today as the dominant symbol of the Roman Empire as it was used in both interiors, such as within basilicas and temples and exteriors to provide support (Mark & Hutchinson).

The early Roman construction methods were generic and made of more organic materials like wood and earth and as such did not survive (MacDonald). It was the ingenuity of its citizens building upon earlier civilizations and, indeed, the growth of construction materials that catapulted the latter Roman Empire into a construction and architectural frenzy.

The evolution from mud brick to stone continued with the Romans and their use of concrete. The first temple to be built using concrete was the Pantheon which married this innovative material with decorative classical Greek structure, as well as including a hemispherical dome (Terenzio). The components of concrete were quicklime, pozzolanic ash, and pumice aggregate spawned a veritable concrete revolution that freed builders from the traditional constraints of working with stone or brick and ushered in a new design aesthetic (Lancaster). Concrete hardened quickly and did not suffer the internal strains of earlier materials (Robertson).

As the empire expanded so too did its access to more materials ranging from chalk and sand through to pozzolanic concrete. Broken pottery would be mixed into mortar to fill in wall segments, and pumice would be added to concrete to make it lighter and more aesthetically pleasing (MacDonald). Importing materials, however, was only used in the most luxurious of cases with Romans preferring locally available items like stone, wood, ceramics, terracotta, and metal to a lesser degree (MacDonald). Regarding stone, Romans delineated between types depending on use for instance marble was to be used decoratively, lime and sandstone would be used for pedestrian low wear areas and basaltic lava or granites would be used in areas subject to increased stress (Moropoulou, Bakolas, and Anagnostopoulou). This shows sophistication in understanding the overall brittleness, durability and porous nature of various stone materials (Robinson).

One of the most advanced achievements showcasing Roman architectural skill was in the construction of a concrete dome comprised of a twenty foot base that tapered in stages on the outside as it rose to an oculus thirty feet in diameter and only ninety inches thick. All of this in turn is supported by a twenty-four foot thick wall that is built upon a ring of concrete fifteen feet thick making the dome not at all as heavy as it appears since the materials gradually lighten as it reaches the top; the bottom being gravel made of mostly basalt and the top being more pumice. The construction is also broken up by empty clay jugs embedded in the upper courses and hidden brick reinforcement arches (W. MacDonald).

It was during the Roman Empire and the technological advancements therein that there seemed to be a blending of art and structure. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the Roman writer and engineer (80-15 B.C.) wrote on the subject of Roman architecture and its composition. Increasingly populace cities needed temples, civil buildings, domestic buildings, pavements and decorative plasterwork, water supplies and aqueducts (Vitruvius). These broad categories were also all influenced by science (geometry, mensuration, astronomy, sundials) and machines (siege engines, water mills drainage machines, pneumatics) (Vitruvius).

Byzantine Empire

As has been the case for others thus far, the Byzantine Empire relied on the work of the empires before it as well as on its own religion. Constantinople, which was in contact with the Hellenized East, took on the architectural and construction mentality of its neighbor (Van Milligan). Form and function, which was introduced by the Romans found a home in the brick work of the Byzantines (Hakim). Sculpted bricks were formed and aligned to produce bands of ornamentation showcasing Persian art aesthetic in the very walls of its churches (Hakim).

The most famous example of Byzantine architecture is in the Hagia Sophia which was built between 532-37 a.D. And which was clearly shaped by religion. A central domed space is flanked and partly sustained by smaller domes and half domes, all of which utilized ramps, levels, levers, pullets and winches as well as the mathematics of angles and arches (Ousterhout). The aisles of the Hagia Sophia also display various forms of vaulting technology that were built without cent rings, a process procured from the earlier Assyrian builders and one that is still in use today (Ousterhout).

Domes became a characteristic feature of Byzantine architecture, most notably the dome of pendentives which is the coming…

Sources Used in Documents:


Ackerman, J.S. "Architectural Practice in the Italian Renaissance." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (1954): 3-11.

Alchermes, Joseph. "Spolia in Roman Cities of the Late Empire: Legislative Rationales and Architectural Reuse." Dumbarton Oaks Paper (1994): 167-178.

Allen, Rob. "Variations of the Arch: Post -- and lintel, Corbelled Arch, Arch, Vault, Cross-Vault Module." 11 August 2009. Civilization Collection. 5 April 2010 <http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/Civilization,776>.

Anderson, James. "Anachronism in the Roman Architecture of Gaul: The Date of the Maison Carree at Nimes." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2001): 68-79.

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