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Architecture and World History


World History through European Colonial Architecture

Pilar Maria Guerrieri


     Today, in a world that tends strongly towards globalization, it is ever more necessary to study world history; world history meaning a complex interweaving of economic and political balances and hegemonies. This essay will try to explain how world history between the 16th and the beginning of the 20th century may be told through the analysis of European colonial architecture. In fact, Modern Europe1 and its colonies marks the largest expansion of a civilization prior to the contemporary globalization process.2 Thanks to its extent and its "classical" architecture, it gives us an Ariadne's thread to follow in reconstructing a decisive moment in world history and to better understand which were the reasons and the results of past encounters between cultures often very different from one another.

     The use of the expansion of Western Civilization to track world history is properly suspect, as it can easily fall victim to "Eurocentric" thinking, but this risk has not stopped world historians from observing the impact of Europe's hold over the world's economy, as evidenced by the map of Europe's dealings throughout the world contained in Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme by the historian Fernand Braudel, which serves to illustrate "Rise of the West" after 1500 c. e.3 Recent examinations of European influence, which here we will consider from a strictly architectural point of view, are well-aware of the pitfalls of cultural determinism (whether Eurocentric, Afrocentric or Sinocentric) and most exhibit due care when considering broad Western political-economic-social processes such as the "civilization" project,4 Europe's global commercial dealings in commodities (silk, spices, etc.), the spread of Western Christianity, and the virtually world-wide presence of European languages or words with Latin roots.

     Unlike some of these processes, architecture is a clearly identifiable factual datum that we can follow like a trail through the course of Western expansionism and/or empire. In fact, it has often been used by ruling powers as a recognizable manifestation of their power aimed at non-Western peoples; all the more so when the colonial power seeks to leave an easily identifiable sign of their presence in newly conquered territories. This is true in the case of even less concrete situations, where by "colonization" we mean not a physical event, like the founding of a city, but rather deep cultural changes designed to promote the taste of one nation in favor of another. This was the case of ancient Greece on the coasts of Southern Italy, or England's "classical" architectural program in the 1700's, Lord Wellesley's "building programme" in India at the beginning of the 1800's, and Nazi pseudo-classical architecture in the twentieth century. 5 Architecture and power have always been tightly connected.

The Emergence of the "Classical Style"

Which architectural style did Europeans use to express their expansionist designs? Up to the twentieth century, the choice tended to fall on a "classical" language,6 that had evolved since the times of ancient Greece, made up of columns, 7 Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian capitals, pediments and moldings. The Classic Language of Architecture, which is also the title of a book by John Summerson,8 has become one of Europe's most typical formal elements and, somewhat, it is the one that most legitimately may be defined an architectural language with a "European connotation". Even though nobody really knows what the exact definition of "classical" is in abstract terms, in concrete terms it implies a series of clearly established elements. There are other architectural languages typical of Europe, but none have achieved the unquestioned admiration of the "classical".

     Because of the great admiration it generated as well as being so often chosen by the ruling powers in European countries, tracing the origins, the spread and the decline of the classical language in architecture is a way to understand how political equilibriums moved across the world and study their history. The connection architecture-power-classicism is what enables us to construct a narrative, both because it reflects intense exchanges and relationships that built up "Europe" through time, and because through a comparative analysis it helps us learn of what happened beyond the Mediterranean and the results that this "encounter" has given. The decision of taking on a specifically "European and classicist" point of view does not mean choosing to exclude other cultures or styles. In fact, it actually implies the desire to recognize the independence of other architectural and cultural realities. It also allows us to understand the results that have been obtained by a specific comparison with European "culture" since, as has already been mentioned, before the contemporary globalization processes, it was the most widespread.

     Classical Greek architecture was the foundation of the "classical" language that we will analyze here. The origin of Greek culture may be placed sometime around the second millennium BC, at the same time as other cultures such as the Mesopotamian or Egyptian, the Chinese or the Indian. What is most amazing in Greek civilization is the astonishing speed of its architectural and artistic flourishing. In only a few centuries it reached such a level of refinement and complexity that it became the irreplaceable reference not only for all other ancient western cultures – especially the Roman and the Etruscan ones – but also, as we shall see, for some of the major European artistic and cultural movements in the following centuries, such as the Renaissance (16th and 17th centuries) or Neoclassicism (second half of the 19th century).

     Greek culture was extremely different from other contemporary cultures not only because of its strong artistic activity, but also in the vast colonial expansion that was typical of the Greeks. It went well beyond the rocky lands of the Peloponnese, carrying forth an expansion process based on the export of both city planning and a model of social organization – the polis –,9 and of the structures and traits that we consider "classical" par excellence, such as temples, statuary and orders. Though the Greeks without a doubt brought several innovations to architecture and urban planning, among these one in particular must be recalled because of the incredible role it has had in the construction of the classical language: architectural orders. There were three orders: the Doric, the Ionic and the Corinthian. Each of these has extremely precise formal traits, but what they all have in common is the use of a series of proportional relationships.10

     With this cultural environment and the artistic and architectonic formulae, the foundations were set for the development and the consolidation of the main elements of the classical language of architecture. Tracing the expansion of the Greek colonies through stylistic features allows us to try to understand how much this civilization influenced the conquered countries, and if the results of this urban-architectural, but also social, economic and cultural, colonialism were more or less deep.

     Southern Italy, a.k.a. Magna Graecia, is maybe the colonized territory in which the architectural principles that first took shape in Greece were most established and adopted by the rising Roman Empire.11 The architecture of Roman power and conquest, especially where it was most influential, clearly recalled that of the Greeks. Equally imposing, the Roman Empire has left traces of theatres, foundation towns and buildings in "classical" style all the way to East Asia. Following the ruins of Roman settlements and buildings, it is possible to measure the exact extent of the Empire, from the Italian peninsula to the many Mediterranean territories and then beyond, to Syria. Tracing the expanse of the Roman Empire that continued to grow steadily through its colonies, in fact, we may collect information on what was happening in the East and measure the extent of its contemporary, the Chinese Empire.

     Roman architecture tends to be fairly homogeneous stylistically. Though in many ways it manifests a different conception of space compared to Greek architecture,12 it certainly borrows several formal elements from it. The elements that are most closely related to Greek culture probably are the classical orders and the temples, for example the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus or the façade of the Pantheon in Rome and the decorative elements of both buildings. Both in Greek and in Roman times the classical language of architecture is used above all in buildings with an official function. The Romans used it to decorate their triumphal arches, theatres and arenas. Even in years less glorious than Augustus', great importance was still given to the role of architecture. In years such as those of the Germanic invasions or those in which the empire was split, between the second century AD and 476, the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maxentius continue promoting grandiose architectural works in Rome and in all the major cities of the empire. Think, for example, of Diocletian's palace in Split from the third century or Maxentius' basilica in Rome from the fourth century.

     Greek and Roman architecture together are what is known as the great "classical civilization." In both cases, dominating power and the classical language of architecture are as one. 13 This latter was, on the one hand, reinterpreted many times, even in very different ways, up through the 20th Century, becoming a common ground in all European countries. On the other hand, it was the most exported language and the one that was most successfully employed in the colonization process between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries.

     Marcus Vitruvius Pollione, a Roman architect and writer from the second half of the first century, is credited for having passed down a direct testimony of the main traits of Greek and Roman architecture. He wrote a fundamental treatise on building techniques and materials: the De Architectura. This is the only ancient classical work that has come down to us and it is of great importance to understand the basis on which the classical language of architecture rests. The De Architectura was used widely in Europe as a theoretical basis for all architects and treatise writers from the Renaissance on, but is was also internationally important as a model and as a source of inspiration for planning European colonial settlements in the New World. Vitruvius's treatise had a fundamental role in the colonies between the 16th and 19th centuries, both in the West and the East. The laws of the Indies, created by Philip II for the building of colonial cities in Mexico, are a perfect example being, according to many scholars, based on "los conceptos ideales de Vitruvio" or the Indian Vitruvius theorized in European Architecture in India 17501850 by Sten Nilsson.14

     After the fall of the Roman Empire, classical architecture underwent a stall. In the year 1000 c. e. throughout Europe there was great ferment of innovation. The pressure of Germanic and Central Asian populations had in fact been overcome and political stability, which stimulates the development of architecture, had returned. The many European architectural experiences between 1000 c. e. and the end of the fourteenth century are conventionally classified as Romanesque (1000 – 1200 c. e.) and Gothic (1200–1400 c. e.). In some countries, especially in central northern Europe, they continued into the following century and beyond, sometimes even being exported to the colonies, as in the case of the Gothic cloister in the Santo Domingo Convent in Oaxaca City, Mexico. "Romanesque" and "Gothic", though, never became real colonial styles because, even though they had strongly characterized European history, they never actually had as much success as the "classical" style. And it is because of this deficiency that they could not be chosen to tell the history of the world. The physical classical elements of ancient Greek and Roman architecture never completely disappeared. In Post Classical times we may find fragments of them used to erect new buildings. For example, the columns or capitals of a Roman arena may be used to build a church,15 and where there are symbols contrary to Christian ideology, they were turned upside down, denying their symbolic value. Let's just say that from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, even though there was this re-use of classical elements visible to this day, basically the classical language of architecture was silent.

     Italian men of culture began to have a serious interest in Greek and Roman classical culture in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. They felt they were directly tied to that great civilization of which they believed they were the heirs, and they started to consider that "middle age" a barbaric and decadent period. An enthusiastic study of ancient classics following philological criteria is the humanistic method, searching a past cleansed of Medieval falsification for models of a moral conduct capable of regenerating contemporary culture: this is why this period is called the Renaissance. Thus the Renaissance is the rebirth of the classical world, and one of the distinctive traits of this period is a strong passion and interest for any cultural aspect of the ancient world. This new discovery of the classical world and Vitruvius' treatise are the bases for a new Renaissance certainty that derives from the theory of proportion applied to architecture. Following this example, many other treatises were written, such as Leon Battista Alberti's or the illustrated ones by Serlio, Vignola and Palladio, in which the subject matter is always the ancient classical Greek and Roman period.16 Florence in particular and Italy in general were the cradle of the new Renaissance architecture, which then spread throughout Europe.

     As has always happened in the case of geographical proximity, there was a strong exchange of information and a subsequent synthesis of tastes between European countries, styles crossed borders and were borrowed from neighboring countries, both in art and architecture. In fact, it was the many easy exchanges inside the continent that made it possible for powerful men, such as monarchs and rich land owners, to take inspiration from the beauties that flourished in Italy. We cannot speak of this period as an actual "colonization" of Europe on Italy's part. It was more a sophisticated cultural colonization tied to the admiration of ancient cultures. The Renaissance was only the beginning of this recovery of "classical" principles, because the classical language was adopted, without any major interruptions, many times over until its moment of great crisis in the twentieth century. The admiration felt by all European countries for Greek and Roman culture is such that a process was triggered in which the classical language of architecture became a model to imitate and promote. The frequent exchanges between countries on public occasions such as the many international fairs made partaking in other cultures easier and started a sort of common, shared cultural evolution process. Gradually in Europe, thanks to this assimilation process of architectural elements of Greek and Roman origin, a consistent part of what Werner Oechslin calls a language of "European connotation".17

     Along with this cultural ferment, the Renaissance period is also marked by the beginning of an incredible economic growth and is the origin of the colonial expansion of European countries.18 Countries such as France, England, Spain, Portugal and Holland felt the need to go beyond their territorial boundaries (this need was felt also by other countries such as Germany, Belgium and Italy but in more recent times, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and to a lesser degree).19 At the beginning of the modern era, Europe was surely inferior to China as far as technology goes. Europe's subordinate role on a worldwide scale, though, soon changed, and Europe found itself playing a leading role. The "Rise of the West" went along with colonial conquering and dominion in different forms and in increasingly vaster areas. The colonization process begins with the geographical discoveries at the end of the fifteenth century and reaches its highest peak in the nineteenth century. These discoveries and the territorial conquests of the European powers are at the base of an unprecedented development of world trade. Over a few centuries Europe became the richest continent in the world and the new political and financial center.20

The Classical Style and Colonialism

The history of colonial dominion involves Europe but mainly concerns two areas of influence: the Far East and the Americas. Though the European exploration of the Ocean began earlier, it was only in the 15th century that it became a regular activity as some of the great national European kingdoms were established and strengthened. There are two main phases in this process according to which European powers held the reins of world commerce. In the first phase, between 1500 and 1600, Portugal and Spain, the first European countries to sail the oceanic routes, maintained the lead role.21 In the second phase, from 1600 and 1700, the Iberian regions lost some of their importance in world commerce, their oceanic preponderance being openly challenged by Northern States.

     If at first the desire of expansion was motivated solely by commerce,22 at the end of the 18th century it turned into the impulse to actually dominate foreign territory politically.23 The greatest architectural production flourished exactly in this "politicized" colonial spirit. The competition to control the seas and trade became harsher and harsher, and between the 17th and 18th centuries this lead to redefinitions of the hierarchy of economical and commercial powers: France and, even more so, England, prevailing over Holland, Spain and Portugal.

     The new hierarchy in international trade pitted France and England against each other. The conflict, won by England by a long measure, lasted seven years, and, more importantly, it was a war fought not only in Europe, but also in the colonies – Canada, the West Indies, the Mediterranean, the Philippines and India. This is the novelty in European political affairs in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds: the role of the colonies in power clashes, which gave these a new dimension no longer limited just to Europe. Gradually, in these evolutions commercial competition turns into a power clash24 and also the settlements are involved in this change and become more real, structured political manifestos. 25

     As with the Greeks and Romans, it is possible to trace the Europeans' movements throughout the world by following and observing the architecture of their colonies. In most of the colonies, we again find at a formal and stylistic level the flourishing of elements of that classical language of architecture that was typical of the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Neoclassical, and that had developed and continued to be extremely successful in Europe. In fact, Renaissance palaces, Palladian villas, Baroque churches, Neoclassical hotels and stations, Greek Revival style temples and pediments from Greek temples applied to public and private buildings can be found all across the world, from Brazil to Africa, India, Indonesia, China and Australia, wherever European "civilization" arrived. Even in places where colonial architecture is no longer fully recognizable, having been subject to renovation processes or having fallen victim to decay, there are still paintings and historical photographs that still testify their past existence. This is for example the case in the Chinese city of Macao where, though all that is left to this date of the Portuguese colonial period is the majestic façade of San Paolo, the Baroque cathedral, the once typical westernized face of its seafront is perfectly visible in historical photographs.26

     It wouldn't be possible to analyze in detail in this brief essay all the examples of Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture spread across all the countries colonized by the Europeans, but it is possible to point out the concreteness, the extent and the complexity of this phenomenon. We could try to outline how in certain geographical regions or, more specifically, some colonizers made precise choices concerning the "classical style" that was to be adopted in the colonies, but, as it is not a linear phenomena and being the period we have taken into consideration very long, there would be the risk of incurring in crude generalizations. For example, in South America there was surely a strong Baroque influence, but saying this was the only "classical" style used by the Spanish colonizers would be a mistake.

     Let's take Mexico for example: in the 17th and 18th centuries the Baroque style was surely very widespread, especially where religious buildings are concerned, such as the Soledad church in Oaxaca or the Santa Prisca church in Taxco, the cathedrals like San José in Tlaxcala or the Santiago cathedral in Tianguistenco and many many more, spread all across the Nueva España territory.27 Though it is true to a certain extent that "in architecture the international diffusion of the Baroque style was much more rapid than the Renaissance", 28 it would be inaccurate not to mention some important cases of "Renaissance" inspiration, such as the important Albertian project in Mexico City commissioned by the first Viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza,29 or all the Herrerian style works that were common in the 17th century – a style the name of which come from Juan de Herrera, the architect chosen by Philip II to design the Monasterio de El Escorial. Furthermore in Nueva España, besides the Baroque and the Renaissance, some significant examples of Neoclassical architecture may be found. In particular I am referring to those buildings that began to be popular from the end of the XVIII century, when the newly established Academy of San Carlos, with the help of Jéronimo Antonio Gil, began to give lessons on the "Neoclassical way of seeing";30 amongst the most important examples, the House of the Conde Rul in Guanajuato, the building for the School of Mines31 and the Palacio de la Minerìa32 in Mexico City.

     Remaining in Nueva España, there are many other examples of classical architecture. One is the square in Spanish Town in Jamaica, West Indies, from the second half of the 18th century, in which the entrances of two of the buildings that enclose the Plaza Mayor are set off by a Palladian pediment with columns. There is also, in the same town, the imposing Ionic colonnade of the Rodney Memorial. We may find the same classical architectural elements in other parts of the Spanish Caribbean, such as the houses in Puerto Rico – Fernando Rivera's in San Germán or the Rodríguez Cebrero House in San Sebastián.33 Spanish colonial architecture in Guatemala is also extremely interesting, an example for all, the marvelous and complex baroque Spanish-American architecture in Antigua, a city founded by the Spaniards in 1543, today UNESCO World Heritage site.

     Other Spanish Viceroyalties present significant classical architectures, such as the Viceroyalties of Peru and Nueva Granada. In the first case, for example, there are the extraordinary Corinthian loggias in the San Francisco and La Compañía convents in Cuzco, or, in the same town, the exemplar Renaissance façades such as the one at the Old Jesuit School from the 18th century. Other clearly Albertian-inspired architectures are to be found in Lima, in churches such as the Sagrario and San Pedro. As far as the Viceroyalty of Granada goes, we find the classical influence openly declared, again in relation to religious buildings, in the capital Quito in monasteries such as San Francisco, San Augustín or De La Merced.34

     Still in South America, we find the same variety in the use of classical styles even in Portuguese Brazil, where the austere classical Salvador cathedral in Salvador de Bahia or the façade of S. Cruz dos Militares in Rio De Janeiro, 35 directly inspired by Vignola's Chiesa del Gesù in Rome, go along with the sinuous shapes of the Nossa Senhora do Pilar church in Ouro Preto.36

     To examine in depth and better understand the colonial classical architecture of Latin America it is also important to read South American Colonial Art and Architecture, by Damián Bayón and Murillo Marx. This text makes tracing classical architecture through Latin America possible and is also useful to focus on its contradictory aspects.

     Architectures with a "European connotation" may also be found in British North America, both in the United States and in Canada. It seems that British colonists never had a special preference for Baroque,37 but they were certainly just as inspired by the Italian masters of the classical style as the Spanish and the Portuguese. The 1730's Sabine Hall in Virginia, 38 with its Doric arcaded entrance surmounted by a pediment, shows that architecture inspired by the Italian master from Vicenza, Andrea Palladio's style was present well before both the Declaration of Independence and the newly elected president Thomas Jefferson's architectural plan at the close of the century.39 Even in Nova Scotia we may find other meaningful examples of "classical style", such as Martock's Neoclassical buildings near Windsor in 1790, the Province House in Halifax from 1811 or the Colonial Building in St. John, Newfoundland, from 1850.40

     In India for example classical architecture still has a lead role. The city of Goa, which was the Portuguese main port in Asia from the 16th century on, has actually been called La Rome de l'Orient.41 Even the English took inspiration from Italy when building in the East: at the end of 1700 Lord Wellesley, with his Palladian "Building Programme" in Calcutta, on one hand was trying to construct a new and strong "classical" image for the East India Company to frighten and fascinate the local populations; on the other, by using the Palladian style, he found an extremely effective way of opposing the Baroque used by the French, for example in the cities of Chardanagore and Pondicherry.42 Lord Wellesley was the first to fight for the building of the famous Government House in Calcutta,43 identical to the drawings of Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi's Renaissance-style Villa Mocenigo, and the one who began a new architectural fashion in India based on the Greek-Roman model. From this moment on, in fact, pediments and Doric columns appear all across the Indian subcontinent, from Barrackpore with the Greek Revival project of The Temple of Fame, all the way to Bombay (now Mumbai), with the powerful Doric arcade of the Town Hall. 44 Both of these buildings date back to the first half of the 19th century.

     Though in China we cannot speak of a European influence in terms of actual colonialism, the relationship with the West having always been tied to land grants in the coastal regions for commercial purposes, here, too, we find the classical language of architecture, brought by the Portuguese, the French and the British. In fact there are traces of classical style at the port in Macao, but also on the Shamian Island and in the historical 13 Hongs district in Guangzhou (known historically as Canton). Possibly the most striking example of architecture with a "European connotation" is the Bund in Shanghai, where, on the Huangpu river, a compact front of Renaissance buildings, decorated with columns and classical orders, today confronts the shiny modern skyscrapers of Pudong.45

     We could continue with an infinite list of Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architectures spread from West to East: from Bombay's eastern gate, to Tokyo (Japan),46 and then to Sidney, Melbourne, Brisbane in Australia,47 all the way to Saigon and Hanoi in Vietnam, 48 and Colombo in Sri Lanka, in Indonesia, in French Africa (Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria) or Dutch Africa (Cape Town).49 The classical language of architecture, spread across the world, is used in many different types of buildings: public buildings, such as town halls or court houses, but also schools and hospitals; religious buildings, constructed by the Church to pursue its world-evangelization project; decorated foreigners' hotels and magnificent private villas.

     In this sense it may be somewhat interesting to take a look at the attempt made in the volume La villa coloniale [The Colonial Villa] to find a transversal connection between various colonial nations throughout the world through the model of the residential villa,50 which was used in Italy beginning in the 16th century. The images in the text clearly show how, notwithstanding the differences between countries, the use of the classical language of architecture was a constant. Classical Vitruvian orders are both in the Rose Hall Great House near Montego Bay in Northern Jamaica, and in the ethereal neoclassical façade of a colonial residence in Lahore, Pakistan, and in parts of the decoration of the Franschhoek villa in the Dutch Cape Colony, but also in the Renaissance villa in the residential district in Penang near Singapore, and they embellish the small villa in the center of Saint Denis in the southern area of the French island of Reunion.

     Each one of the areas colonized by Europeans shows an extremely different use of the classical language, depending on which country, Spain, England, France or Portugal, colonized them, but at the same time it also shows a more complex and contradictory set of versions and declinations of the classical elements depending on how strong the occupied territory was politically, economically and artistically. Even though the classical elements of architecture can indeed be followed to locate the areas of influence of European colonization, the "tracks" aren't always "pure", sometimes they show a strong hybridization.51

     The mestizo architecture in Latin America is an example of this, as is the Church of La Compagnia of Arequipa in Perù, where local symbols and decorations are blended with the European classical language of architecture.52 The Capilla abierta de Tlalmanalco is another case of great interest in Mexico: here we see a blending of traditional Mexican open-air churches and the use of classical orders in the apse, the only built area of the church. A similar important example of architectural compromise may also be found in the South Asia, when the British colonists in India decided, from the second half of the 19th century, hoping to find a political agreement, to adopt an Indosaracenic style. In this sense, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker's project in New Delhi is exemplary, as it attempts to mix round arches, columns and capitals with ogee arches, chattris, stuppa and exotic animals.53 Only a more in depth analysis of a single case study would actually be of help to understand, in presence of the same quantity of classical traces, where to find the fine line between the instances in which there was simply a transplant of capitals, columns and pediments, and where instead there was a profound process of context assimilation.

     Furthermore, we should always verify whether we are dealing with a case in which European colonial architecture is just a manifestation of a classical taste, or if, instead, it is a more aware process of understanding and applying classical principles. While we may find classical elements used in the most imaginative ways from Brazil to China, the Spanish and the Portuguese, though they favored the Baroque style, seem to have integrated better with the colonized peoples, creating actual mestizo elites;54 the British, instead, had much stronger principles of separation from the indigenous populations.55 We may venture the assumption that the former colonized the world with cities that were actual ideological manifestos,56 whereas the latter manifested their ideology otherwise, adopting an architecture that is always rich in highly modern elements.

     Take the "ideal cities" planned by Philip II's Ordenanza in Nueva España, such as Mexico City, or the structure of the British colonial cities based on the relationship of separateness between Civil Lines, Cantonments and the historical city center,57 as in the Indian cities of Madras, Calcutta or Delhi. The motherland's tendency to perceive local tradition and British modernity as antithetical and Great Britain's attempt to impose itself on the local populace as instructor of the principles of "modernity" had a fundamental role in the development of British colonies. In most cases, in fact, British colonization brought with it processes of technological and engineering innovation, such as new railway yards,58 electric connections, and radical hygienic and functional reforms, often at the price of drastic demolitions of the historical city centers.

The Global Legacy of the Classical Language of Architecture in the service of European Colonialism

A last interesting aspect we cannot avoid taking into consideration, and that makes the analysis of the spreading of the classical language of architecture in different parts of the world even more complicated, is the different way in which each former colony has, after having obtained its independence, accepted or refused the classical colonial styles imported by Europeans. In fact, sometimes European styles have been so perfectly assimilated by the colonized nations that they become the symbol also of the independent nation. Such is the case with the United States, where Palladian motifs became national symbols with Thomas Jefferson. Other times there is a total refusal and European styles will never be used again after the liberation. This happened in India, where after 1947, year of its independence from Great Britain, not a single Doric column was built. To reflect on Western Europe's failure to conquer indigenous tastes, it would be interesting to try to measure to what extent and in what way in other ex-colonies throughout the world there was (or was not) the assimilation of the classical architectural style that swept over them between the 16th and 20th centuries.

     Thus, the spread of the classical language of architecture in the modern world is a complex affair, made up of power architectures, complicated hybrids, strong contradictions, assimilations and refusals. Through the centuries, the classical language of architecture has contributed to build a European identity first, and then, having reached almost all corners of the globe in the years of the Western European's colonies, it becomes a decisive element both to reconstruct a dense history of international exchanges, and to better understand what the encounter of very different cultures can bring. The classical elements are so strong and clear a track to follow through different countries throughout the world that, even where they have failed to reach, they always give us the opportunity to reflect negatively, such as on why Europe was not able to conquer such places, including why indigenous peoples were able to resist it, wholly, or in part.

     But, as we have seen, classical architecture is not always found in its purest form. Sometimes it had to resort to compromises, generating an extremely interesting hybrid architecture. A thorough analysis of the classical language of architecture during the European colonial period also allows us to study those cases in which it did not ignore the local tradition, and this is one of the most interesting aspects of the entire colonial period. It may be necessary to set up a course to piece together the world history of the classical language of architecture, not only because, thanks to its international traits, it allows us to comparatively consider most countries in the world, but especially because it is an effective instrument to deeply reflect about which power equilibriums there have been and what consequences they have had across the world. These historical reconstruction studies would give us the opportunity to develop a critical point of view on the risks that economic, political and architectural imposition of one culture over another can bring, and at the same time they would teach us to grasp the great opportunities generated by the encounter of cultures very far from one another as long as there is a profound acceptance of each other's diversity. Developing such critical spirit is essential to face some crucial questions of our times, such as the advent of globalization, in an aware and civil fashion.

Pilar Maria Guerrieri, graduated with full marks from the Politecnico of the Milan University in July 2011, is an architect with a strong passion for the history of art and architecture who is now working on a Ph.D. in Architectural design at the Politecnico di Milano, with a proposed research project in collaboration with Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Delhi, the resulting thesis being entitled "The Cities of Delhi Between Colonialism and Post Colonialism (1911–1962)".


1 Paolo Viola, L'Europa Moderna. Storia di un'Identità (Torino: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 2004). This text tells us how modern Europe has built its identity.

2 See Fernand Nathan, Atlas Historique (Paris: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1982).

3 . Fernand Braudel, Civiltà materiale, economia e capitalismo (secoli XVXVIII). I tempi del quotidiano, vol. III, trans. Corrado Vivanti (Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1982), 10–11, originally published as Civilization matérielle, économie et capitalisme (XVXVIII). Les temps du monde (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1979).

4 Herald Fisher and Tiné Mann and Michael Mann, Colonialism as a Civilizing Mission. Cultural Ideology in British India (London: Wimbledon Publishing Company, 2004); see also Patricia A. Morton, "The Civilizing Mission of Architecture", in Hybrid Modernities. Architecture and Representation at the 131 Colonial Exposition, Paris (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Mit Press, 2000), 176–215.

5 See for example the architect Albert Speer in Berlin.

6 "Classicism, in one guise or another, was absolutely the most significant architectural language in Europe and America, and where there were western influences until 1945" quoted from James Stevens Curl, Classical Architecture. an Introduction to its Vocabulary and Essentials, with a Select Glossary of Terms (London: B.T. Batsford LTD, 1992), 169.

7 "The overwhelming majority of colonial buildings constructed in India before the mid-nineteenth century were designed in classical style" quoted from "The Classical Models" in G.H.R. Tillotson, The Tradition of Indian Architecture. Continuity, Controversy and Change since 1850 (New Heaven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), 3. This is one case study of India, we can find many other relevant examples around the world.

8 Jhon Summerson, Il Linguaggio Classico Dell'Architettura. Dal Rinascimento Ai Maestri Contemporanei, 3rd ed., trans. Livia Moscone Bargilli (Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore, 2000), originally published as The Classic Lenguage of Architecture (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1963).

9 Enzo Lippolis, Monica Livadiotti and Giorgio Rocco, Architettura Greca: storia e monumenti del mondo della polis dalle Origini al V secolo (Milano: Bruno Mondadori, 2007).

10 A.W. Lawrence, Greek Architecture, 3rd ed. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1973); Luciano Patetta, Storia Dell'Architettura. Antologia Critica (Santarcangelo di Romagna (RN): Maggioli Editore, 2007), 59–72. The second text, in Italian, has an interesting collection of writings about Greek architecture.

11 Jean Bérard, La Magna Grecia. Storia Delle Colonie Greche Dell'Italia Meridionale, 2nd ed. (Torino: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1963). This text is about Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily.

12 Patetta, Storia Dell'Architettura. Antologia Critica, 73–82

13 D.S. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge at the University press, 1969); see also R.A Tomlinson, Greek and Roman Architecture (London: British Museum Press, 1995).

14 Andrzej Wyrobisz, La ordenanza de Felipe II del año 1573 y la construcción de ciudades coloniales españolas en la América, in Estudios Latinoamericanos (Warzawa: Academia de Ciencias de Polonia, 1980), 15; Sten Nilsson, European Architecture in India 17501850 (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), 156

15 This has happened to many Italian churches, such as San Lorenzo in Milan, that was built with building materials from the nearby Roman arena. See Maria Pia Rossignani, "I materiali architettonici di reimpiego" in La basilica di San Lorenzo in Milano, ed. Gian Alberto dell'Acqua (Cinisello Balsamo (MI): Banca Popolare di Milano, 1985), 39–63.

16 Patetta, Storia Dell'Architettura. Antologia Critica, 108–164

17 Werner Oechslin, Palladianesimo. Teoria e Prassi, trans. Elena Filippi (Venezia: Arsenale editrice, 2006), 251. By saying "European Connotation" the historian refers to the fact that Palladian elements are part of a common European Architectural Language. This expression can be used not only for Palladian elements but also for many other classical elements which distinguish Europe from other countries.

18 Wolfgang Reinhard, Storia Del Colonialismo, trans. Elena Broseghini (Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore, 2002), originally published as Kleine Geschichte des Kolonialismus (Stuttgart: Kroner Verlag,, 1966); Jurgen Osterhammel, Colonialism. A Theoretical Overview, trans. Shelley L. Frisch. (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997), originally published as Kolonialismus (Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1995).

19 James S. Olson and Robert Shadle, Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism (New York-Westport, Connecticut-London: Greenwood Press, 1991), 689–714.

20 Viola, L'Europa Moderna. Storia di un'Identità, 327–334. This book contains a section entitled "Padroni del mondo" [The Owners of The World] referring to Europeans.

21 Braudel, Fernand. Espansione Europea e Capitalismo 14501650. trans. Graziella Zattoni Nesi (Bologna: il Mulino, 1999), originally published as "Expansion européenne et capitalisme (1450–1650)" in Les Ambitions de l'Historire, edited by R. de Ayala e P. Braudel (Paris: Editions de Fallois, 1997), 377–436.

22 Giorgio Borsa, La nascita del mondo moderno in Asia Orientale. La penetrazione europea e la crisi delle società tradizionali in India Cina e Giappone (Milano: Rizzoli editore, 1977); Kavalam M. Panikkar, Storia della dominazione europea in Asia. Dal Cinquecento ai nostri giorni. trans. Vittorio Radicati di Marmoreto (Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore, 1958), originally published as Asia and Western Dominance. A Survey of the Vasco Da Gama Epoch of Asian History 14981945 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953).

23 Venice and Genoa were the most important ports and trading companies in the Mediterranean sea before the discovery of the oceanic routes. See Mollat du Jourdin, L'Europa e il mare dall'antichità a oggi, trans. Fausta Cataldi Villari (Roma-Bari: Gius. Laterza&Figli, 1993), 39–55, originally published as L'Europe et la Mer (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1993).

24 Alice L. Conklin and Ian Christopher Fletcher, European Imperialism 18301930 (Boston - New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999); Andrew Porter, European Imperialism. 18601904 (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Mac Millan, 1994).

25 "'The splendours of the British Arms produced a sudden change in its aspects; the bamboo roof suddenly vanished; the marble column took the place of brick walls; princely mansions were erected by private individuals …' It was natural for these assiduous observers of architecture to describe the change in such terms, to see in the buildings, in the columns, symbols of commercial, military and political progress." quoted from Sten Nilsson, European Architecture in India 17501850 (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), 163.

26 See Catherine Donzel, Viaggi in Asia (Milano: Touring Club Italiano, 2006), passim.

27 James Early, The Colonial Architecture of Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1994), 98, 101, 172, 178.

28 James Early, The Colonial Architecture of Mexico, 63.

29 The copy of the De Re Aedificatoria annotated by Antonio de Mendoza may be found in the UNAM library in the Mexico University founded by him.

30 James Early, The Colonial Architecture of Mexico, 192.

31 Ibidem, 197, 198

32 Enrique X. De Anda, Historia de la arquitectura mexicana (Naucalpan: Ediciones G.Gili, 1995), 136.

33 David Buisseret, Historic Architecture of the Caribbean (London-Kingston-Port of Spain: Heinemann, 1980), 84; see also Jorge Rigau, Puerto Rico 1900. Turn of the Century Architecture in the Hispanic Caribbean (New York: Rizzoli, 1992).

34 See Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral in Damián Bayón, Murillo Marx, History of South American Colonial Art and Architecture. Spanish South America and Brazil, (New York: Rizzoli International publications, INC., 1992).

35 Sergio Bonamico, Carlos A. Cacciavillani, Brasile di ieri. Viaggio intorno al Brasile e alle sue architetture coloniali (Roma: Gangemi editore, 2000), 104.

36 Ibidem, 211; for an overview on classical architecture in Brazil see also: Recollection of Old Brazil. Photographic images in Early Postcards of the Oliveira Lima Library (Rio de Janeiro: Capivara, 2011).

37 The absence of the Baroque style in the British colonies is not surprising since the homeland itself had a brief and contradictory experience with this style. It is significant that Christopher Wren (1632–1723), who is considered one of the most important among the few exponents of British Baroque, is also placed in the opening page of the British Neo-Palladian manifesto: the Vitruvius Britannicus by Colen Cambell.

38 John Mead Howells, Lost Examples of Colonial Architecture. Buildings that have disappeared or so been altered as to be denaturated, with an introduction by Friske Kimball (New York: Dover Publications, INC., 1963), plate 137.

39 Christian Norberg-Schulz, L'architettura del Nuovo Mondo. Tradizione e sviluppo dell'architettura americana (Roma: Officina Edizioni, 1988), 136–138

40 Harold Kalman, A History of Canadian Architecture, vol. 1 (Toronto-New York-Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 103, 134, 307.

41 Goa 1510–1685. L'Inde Portugaise, apostolique et commerciale, ed. by Michel Chandeigne (Paris: Autrement, 1996), 91

42 Geraldine Smith-Parr, Palladianism in India. Lord Wellesley's patronage of Charles Wyatt at Calcutta. His plan for the College of Fort William in Bengal and for a new Country Residence at Barrackpre (M.A degree, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984).

43 The Marquis Curzon of Kedleston, British Government in India. The Story of the Viceroy and Government House, vol. I ( London-NewYork-Toronto-Melbourne: Cassel and Company LTD, 1925), 39–92

44 Andreas Volwahsen, Splendours of Imperial India. British Architecture in the 18th and 19th Century (Munich-Berlin-London-NewYork: Prestel Verlag, 2004), 31, 66.

45 Edward Denison, Guang Yu Ren, Building Shangai. The Story of China's Gateway (Chichester: Wiley Accademy, 2006), 67, 69, 75; see also Bund12, ed. Zhang Guangsheng, tran. Liu Zhiyong (Shangai: Shangai Brilliant Books & Shangai Pudong Development Bank, 2007) and Tess Johnston, A last look. Western Architecture in Old Shangai (Hong Kong: Old China Hand Press, 1993).

46 Hiroshi Watanabe, The Architecture of Tokyo. An architectural history in 571 individual presentations (Stuttgart-London: Edition Axel Menges 2001), 66, 99, 113.

47 The Encyclopedia of Australian Architecture, ed. Philip Goad and Julie Willis (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

48 Arnauld Le Brusq, Vietnam. à Travers l'Architecture Coloniale (Paris: Editions de l'Amateur, 1999) 50, 51, 53, 55.

49 Rives Coloniales. Architecture de Saint Lois à Douala, edited by Jacques Soulillou (Maseilles-Paris: Edition Parenthèses-Edition de l'Orstom, 1993); see also Architectures Françaises. Outre-Mere. Abidjan, Agadir, Alep, Alger, Bangui, Beyrouth, Brazza Ville, Cansado, Casablanca, Conakry, Dakar, Damas, Hanoi, Libreville, Niamey, Orleansville, Ougadougou, Riyadh, Tananarive, Tunis, Yaounde (Liege: Mardaga, 1992).

50 Ovidio Guaita, La villa coloniale. Dimore forestiere nelle terre di conquista (Milano: Leonardo Arte, 1999).

51 Morton, Hybrid Modernities. Architecture and Representation at the 131 Colonial Exposition, Paris; see also Kader Attia, Sign of Reappropriation, in Colonial Modern, ed. Tom Avermaete, Serhat Karakayali and Marion von Osten ( London: black dog publishing, 2010), 50–57. This text is the result of an exhibition project, entitled "In the Desert of Modernity – Colonial planning and after", that took place at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin 29.8. 2008 – 26.10.2008. As an example of hybridization (between Indio and Spanish architecture); see also Pedro Rojas, Arte Messicana. Epoca coloniale, vol. II, trans. Ileana Acuti (Novara: Istituto Geografico De Agostini, 1965), 141, originally published as Historia General de Arte Mexicano: Epoca Colonial (Buenos Aires: Editorial Hermes, 1963).

52 Marx, History of South American Colonial Art and Architecture. Spanish South America and Brazil, 155

53 Andreas Volwahsen, Imperial Delhi. The British Capital of the Indian Empire (Munich-Berlin-London-NewYork: Prestel, 2002)

54 James Early, The Colonial Architecture of Mexico, 45; this page shows how normal it was for the Spaniards to mix with the local population, so much that there were actual mestizo élites.

55 "Neoclassical and beaux art influences in [Delhi] architecture and design stood in sharp contrast to the existing practices […]. [British] identity was constructed in opposition to the one that was disdained as 'traditional'" in Jyoti Hosagrahar, Indigenous Modernities. Negotiating architecture and urbanism (London-NewYork: Routledge, 2005), 79–80.

56 Wyrobisz, La ordenanza de Felipe II del año 1573 y la construcción de ciudades coloniales españolas en la América, passim.

57 For British urban development see Anthony D. King, Colonial Urban Development. Culture, social Power and Environment (London-Henley-Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976); for Spanish urban development see Antonio Bonet Correa, El Urbanismo en España e Hispanoamerica (Madrid: Càtedra, 1991).

58 Railway imperialism, ed. Clarence Baldwin Davis and Kenneth E. Wilburn with Ronald Edward Robinson (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990).

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