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Architecture during the Hellenistic period focused on theatricality and drama; the period also saw an increased popularity of the Corinthian order.
Describe the characteristics of Hellenistic architecture, including stoas, the Corinthian order, and the use of theatricality
Hellenistic architecture, in a manner similar to Hellenistic sculpture, focuses on theatricality, drama, and the experience of the viewer. Public spaces and temples were created with the people in mind, and so were built on a new, monumental scale.
Stoas are colonnaded porticos used to define public space and protect patrons from the elements. Stoas are often found around a city's agora, and turn the city's central place for civic, administrative, and market elements into a grand space.
The Temple of Apollo at Didyma was an oracle site with an ambitious building plan that was never completed. Its plan consisted of a double colonnade of massively tall columns that engulfed the viewer in dark corridors before opening into a bright courtyard and the shrine to the god.
The Corinthian order, developed during the Classical period, witnessed increased popularity during the Hellenistic period. The columnar style of the order is similar in many ways to the Ionic order except for the column's capital, which is vegetal and lush. A double layer of acanthus leaves line the basket from which stylized tendrils and volutes emerge.
Architecture in the Greek world during the Hellenistic period developed theatrical tendencies, as had Hellenistic sculpture. The conquests of Alexander the Great caused power to shift from the city-states of Greece to the ruling dynasties. Dynastic families patronized large complexes and dramatic urban plans within their cities. These urban plans often focused on the natural setting, and were intended to enhance views and create dramatic civic, judicial, and market spaces that differed from the orthogonal plans of the houses that surrounded them.
Architecture in the Hellenistic period is most commonly associated with the growing popularity of the Corinthian order. However, the Doric and Ionic orders underwent notable changes. Examples include the slender and unfluted Doric columns and the four-fronted capitals on Ionic columns, the latter of which helped to solve design problems concerning symmetry on the temple porticos.
A stoa, or a covered walkway or portico, was used to bind agorae and other public spaces. Highlighting the edge of open areas with such decorative architecture created a theatrical effect for the public space and also provided citizens with a basic daily form of protection from the elements. Both the stoa and the agora were used by merchants, artists, religious festivals, judicial courts, and civic administrations.
The Stoa of Attalos (c. 150 BCE) in Athens was built in the Agora, under the patronage of King Attalos II of Pergamon. This portico consists of a double colonnade. It was two stories tall, and had a row of rooms on the ground floor. The exterior colonnade on the ground level was built in the Doric order, and the interior was Ionic. On the second level, Ionic columns lined the exterior, and columns with a simple, stylized capital lined the interior.
The temple was designed by the architects Paionios of Ephesus and Daphnis of Miletus. Its construction began in 313 BCE but was never completed, although work continued until the second century CE. This temple's site is vast.
The interior court was 71 feet wide by 175 feet long and contained a small shrine. The court was also dipteral in form, edged with a double row of 108 columns, each 65 feet tall, that surrounded the temple. The structure creates a series of imposing spaces, from the exterior colonnade to the oracle rooms, and the interior courtyard inside of which the shrine to Apollo stood.
The building plan also played with theatricality and drama, forcing its visitors through a dark interior and then opening up into a bright and open courtyard that did not have a roof. The building is dramatically different from the perfected Classical plan of temples. Instead of focusing on symmetry and harmony, the building focuses on the experience of the viewer.
The Corinthian order is considered the third order of Classical architecture. The order's columns are slender and fluted and sit atop a base. The capital consists of a double layer of acanthus leaves and stylized plant tendrils that curl up towards the abacus in the shape of a scroll or volute.
The decorative Corinthian order was not widely adopted in Greece, although it was popular in tholoi. It was, however, used substantially throughout the Roman period.
The ruined Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens (also known as the Olympieion) contains one of the best-known examples of the Corinthian column in Hellenistic architecture. Originally designed in the Doric order in the sixth century BCE, the temple was redesigned in the second century BCE in the Corinthian order on a colossal platform measuring 134.5 feet by 353.5 feet.
It was to be flanked by a double colonnade of eight columns across the front and back and twenty-one on the flanks, surrounding the cella. The design was eventually changed to have three rows of eight columns across the front and back of the temple and a double row of twenty on the flanks, for a total of 104 columns. The columns stand 55.5 feet high and 6.5 feet in diameter. In 164 BCE, the death of Antiochus IV (who had presented himself as the earthly embodiment of Zeus) brought the project to a halt, and the temple would remain incomplete.
“Architecture in the Hellenistic Period.”
Boundless Art History
Boundless, 20 Nov. 2016.
Retrieved 25 Feb. 2017 from