A high number of buildings in the West combine elements from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, but sometimes it goes a bit further and a building is inspired by a single ancient structure. The best example is perhaps the Roman Pantheon, which is the inspiration for many western monuments, churches, universities, libraries, and museums.
The Pantheon (built 126AD), Rome
The words engraved in the stone above the entrance mean “Built by Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third-time,” but Agrippa’s building was destroyed. The one that stands today was built at the request of emperor Hadrian in 126AD. The word “pantheon” itself means “all the gods,” from “pan” meaning “all” and “theos,” which means “god.” The Roman Pantheon was originally a temple to honor all of the gods that Rome had adopted from Greece. It became a Christian church in the 7th century and still is one today.
The two key features of the Pantheon are its angular facade and its round dome, which are the best-preserved examples of their kind from Ancient Rome:
This and the striking proportions and engineering of the structure have been inspiring architects for over a thousand years, and the results of that influence can be seen both in Europe and the United States:
Pantheon (built 1758-1790), Paris
Low Memorial Library, Columbia University, New York (built 1895)
The Great Dome, aka the Killian Court Dome (built 1916), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Manchester Central Library (built 1930-1934)
National Gallery of Art, West Building (built 1937-1941), Washington, D.C.
The architect John Russell Pope used the Roman Pantheon not only for the National Gallery of Art, but also for the Jefferson Memorial:
Jefferson Memorial (built 1939-1943)
John Russell Pope was not the only one obsessed with the Pantheon’s form. Jefferson was as well, as evidenced by his design for his Monticello home and the University of Virginia Rotunda:
Monticello (built 1768-1772)
The University of Virginia Rotunda (built 1817-1819) – Photo by Terren
The building’s form is so iconic that it is still used today as the university’s logo, based on a drawing by Jefferson:
University of Virginia Logo
Thomas Jefferson, Elevation of the Rotunda (1819)
The Roman Pantheon is the result of a combination of influences, a major one being Ancient Greek, especially through the use of the Corinthian order for all the columns, but few ancient buildings have been as influential as the Pantheon itself.