Baroque Architecture – Definition and main themes

When we talk about some types of art we also make a small reference to the characteristic disciplines that each of those types of art has, such as the types of painting, the types of architecture or even the types of sculpture that exist. Within baroque art one of its most outstanding disciplines is architecture.

What is baroque architecture

Baroque architecture is a discipline that emerged with baroque art and was the product of the influences of Renaissance art and mannerism. This style of architecture originated in Rome in the 17th century and gradually moved to the rest of the European countries in the 18th century. In many of the countries of Europe, such as England and France, a more rationalist baroque emerged that was a derivative of the Renaissance and which was called Baroque Classicism. However, in the 18th century in France another type of art was developed that was based mainly on the decorative arts which they called Rococó although this style of art emerged in Rome from the year 1630 to 1670.

Keywords baroque architecture characteristics

Main characteristics of Baroque Architecture

The main characteristics of baroque architecture are based on using ellipses, curves and spirals in addition to complex polycentric shapes. Furthermore, this architecture was supported by two other very important disciplines, painting and sculpture. With these disciplines very exuberant and artistic buildings were created.

The Baroque idea of ​​Buildings

Baroque architects understood buildings as a single mass that was formed according to a series of requirements. Likewise, in the Baroque description it was more apt to draw the conformation of an imaginary mass of soft plastic or clay. For, for Baroque architects, a building was to some extent a kind of great sculpture.

The planes on land

This conception had a vital effect on the floor plan, the contours of the building seen from above, came to be adopted, which led to the rejection of the simple, elementary plans, by analytical plans that were deliberately preferred by the architects of the Renaissance. Its place was occupied by complex, rich and dynamic designs, more appropriate to constructions that are no longer thought of as created by the union of several pieces with their own autonomy, but rather as hollowed out, in the form of a total compact with a series of contour demarcations. 

The typical elements of baroque architecture are the ellipse or oval diagrams, or much more complex that lead to complicated geometric figures. 

The Wavy Motive in the Baroque Architecture Buildings 

In baroque architectureIn addition to its complex ground plans, the resulting curving of the walls was therefore the other outstanding feature of Baroque buildings. Not only was the conception of the building as a single entity, but they also introduced another constant from the Baroque, the idea of ​​movement, into architecture. And indeed, once discovered, the wavy motif was not limited to the walls. Thus, the idea of ​​giving movement to an architectural element in the form of more or less regular curves and against curves became a dominant motif in all Baroque art. In the interiors curves were made, from the church of S. Andrea al Quirinales by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the main creators and exponents of the Roman Baroque, to that of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane or S. Ivo alla Sapienza de Borromini, its closest rival. So were the facades, such as in Bernini’s plans for the Palais du Louvre in Paris and generally in the work of Italian, Austrian, and German architects. Even the columns were designed in a wavy way.

Vaults, Arches and Buttresses 

The churches of the time were always built with vaulted ceilings. Therefore, the vault is used for the first time in Roman architecture. However, in Baroque architecture it is done with a collection of arches, since the arches tend to put outward pressure on the walls as support. Well, in any vaulted building a counterforce to this pressure is necessary. The supply element is the buttress, a characteristic especially typical in the architecture of the Middle Ages. To introduce the buttress in the baroque construction, it had to have a shape compatible with that of the other members to avoid reference to the Gothic architecture of the past.

Main themes of baroque architecture

The main themes on which Baroque  architecture was based are:

Urbanism: this theme stood out mainly in the year 1585 when Pope Sixtus V began an urban modification in the city of Rome. This process was about creating a ratification in Rome, for which centralized plans were used to create a more open and dynamic vision of the city. In addition, central foci were created through the placement of high domes and obelisks used in Egyptian art.

Baroque Architecture in the Churches : the starting point of Baroque architecture is believed to have been the Gesú Church (in Rome) which was built in 1568. This building had a great influence on Mannerist and Renaissance architecture, although without However, the baroque style prevailed over the others. A Counter-Reformation was carried out in which a Latin cross base was used, which had a great variety of side chapels. Therefore, baroque architecture was very present in the construction of churches with the design of the dome.

The Palaces: when talking about civil architecture we have to differentiate between two kinds of buildings, the palaces (usually located in the city) and the villas (located in the countryside). In the palaces it was possible to observe highly decorated and central bodies in which the giant orders were used. In addition, larger symmetry axes were created placed inside the construction that gave rise to a patio and an internal hall. However, in France the palace kept the plans of the old castles of the Middle Ages. 

Due to the climate in France, it was necessary to choose facades and staggered walls, as well as wings on the sides. One of the most outstanding examples of this type of baroque architecture was the Luxembourg Palace built in 1615. 

In the baroque architecture inside the palaces you can see two different types of buildings that were created at the same time but were different from each other. Also inside the palaces there were some pavilions that were not intended for local services but had rooms on each of their floors.


by Abdullah Sam
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