The History of Western Architecture in Photos

A Photographic Look at Western Architecture

aerial view of scattered megalithic stones scattered in a circle
Stonehenge in Amesbury, United Kingdom. Jason Hawkes/Getty Images

What style is that great building? What buildings are beautiful? Join us for a photo tour through architectural history. In this photo gallery you will find buildings and structures that illustrate important periods and styles from prehistoric days through modern times. For more historic periods, also see our Architecture Timeline.

Monoliths, Mounds, and Prehistoric Structures

Silbury Hill, a man-made, prehistoric earthworks monument in southern England
Silbury Hill and the Dawn of Architecture Silbury Hill, a man-made, prehistoric earthworks monument in southern England. VisitBritain/Getty Images

3,050 BC-900 BC: Ancient Egypt

blue sky, large brown pyramid near road and small people and camel figures
The Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren) in Giza, Egypt. Lansbricae (Luis Leclere)/Getty Images (cropped)

850 BC-476 AD: Classical

ruins of a multi-colomned temple on top of a sheered cliff of stone
Beauty from Order, the Parthenon Atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. MATTES René/Getty Images (cropped)

527 AD-565 AD: Byzantine

red stone sacred building with cylinder center dome and many rooflines
Church of Hagia Eirene in the First Courtyard of the Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. Salvator Barki/Getty Images (cropped)

800 AD - 1200 AD: Romanesque

Rounded arches, massive walls, tower of the Basilica of St. Sernin (1070-1120) in Toulouse, France
Romanesque Architecture of the Basilica of St. Sernin (1070-1120) in Toulouse, France. Anger O./AgenceImages courtesy Getty Images

1100-1450: Gothic

Architecture Reaches New Height Built in the thirteenth century, Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture
The Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres, France. Alessandro Vannini/Getty Images (cropped)

1400-1600: Renaissance

stone villa on a rural hill, square with four porticos on each side, center dome, symmetrical
Villa Rotonda (Villa Almerico-Capra), near Venice, Italy, 1566-1590, Andrea Palladio. Massimo Maria Canevarolo via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

1600-1830: Baroque

ornate entrance to The Palace of Versailles in France
The Baroque Palace of Versailles in France. Loop Images Tiara Anggamulia/Getty Images (cropped)

1650-1790: Rococo

ornate facade with many decorated windows, columns, and blue and white siding
The Rococo Catherine Palace in Pushkin near Saint Petersburg, Russia. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

1730-1925: Neoclassicism

large horizontal oriented series of connected buildings with a dome in the center
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Architect of the Capitol

1890 to 1914: Art Nouveau

corner view of massive, multi-story hotel with dormers and balconies with wrought iron rails swirls
The 1910 Hôtel Lutetia in Paris, France. Justin Lorget/chesnot/Corbis via Getty Images

1885-1925: Beaux Arts

highly ornate exterior of rectangular box-shaped building with arches and columns and sculptures lit at night
Neoclassicism Gone Wild - The Paris Opéra, by Beaux Arts Architect Charles Garnier. Francisco Andrade/Getty Images (cropped)

1905-1930: Neo-Gothic

detail of the top of an ornately carved out skyscraper in Chicago
The Neo-Gothic 1924 Tribune Tower in Chicago. Glowimage/Getty Images (cropped)

1925-1937: Art Deco

detail of skyscraper stepped top with needle-like top extension and silver ornamentation below
The Art Deco Chrysler Building in New York City. CreativeDream/Getty Images

1900-Present: Modernist Styles

sleek white horizontal oriented building with central disc-shaped glassed balconies
De La Warr Pavilion, 1935, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex, United Kingdom. Peter Thompson Heritage Images/Getty Images

1972-Present: Postmodernism

exaggerated modern building combining industrial with bright colors and elements of classical architecture
Postmodern Architecture at 220 Celebration Place, Celebration, Florida. Jackie Craven

21st Century

Curving Computer-designed building of glass and solid white fluid folds
Parametricism: Zaha Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Centre, 2012, Baku, Azerbaijan. Christopher Lee/Getty Images

What qualities do you think make a building beautiful? Graceful lines? Simple form? Functionality? Here are some ideas from architecture enthusiasts around the world:

  • All great architecture has balance and symmetry. That's why classical architecture - Greek, Roman - has endured through the ages.
  • I think the most beautiful buildings are the ones that surprise us. They break all the rules. That's why I like Frank Gehry so much.
  • The appearance of a building or its elevational geometric(s) should certainly be the result of the building's functionality. Simply put, it is form deriving from function that equals to aesthetics. The form therefore should be of pure geometry without frills, giving interpretation to all horizontal angulations offered by the plan. There should be no arbitrary interpretation from the horizontal plane to its true orthographical projection directly to its regular verticality. The Designer must relay a clear isometric clarity by crystallographic simplicity accountable to its structural determinants.
  • A beautiful space must satisfy the purpose, place, period, and people for whom it is designed.
  • A building is beautiful, I suppose, When it's sculpted like a rock, Yet unfolds like a rose.
  • To me, the beauty of a building is its functionality. Then I can relate with it perfectly, I can speak to it and it will respond, I can rest in after a hard day's job and I will be soothed. Especially, in Lagos, Nigeria where traffic is always is locked. In the Third World, it's not always about the flowery landscape. Oftentimes, it's about a space to lay your head with plenty of fresh air with two eyes closed.
  • What makes a building beautiful? Balance, proportion, appropriate embellishments, congruity with its environment and evidence of human skill.
  • The town of Bath in England is uniformly beautiful because of the symmetry of design and colour of its primary buildings. A soft yellow sedimentary stone, called Bath stone, has been used to face all the buildings built there since the mid-1700s. When you approach the city from the east, you look down into a large bowl-shaped valley that seems to be full of pale honey. The Bath Crescent, an immense arc of Georgian townhouses, to me is the most beautiful building in the world.
  • Great architecture is when entering or viewing a building, I feel great. HAGIA SOFIA MAKES ME ECSTATIC, I am knocked out by 12th and 13th century French gothic cathedrals, seeing the Taj is breathtaking. Wright's home in Oak Park is very exciting, the light and color in Legoretta's are wonderful, St. Mark's Square in Venice is unforgettable, Palladio and Aalto's buildings are exciting. These are just a few examples.
  • Beauty comes when it tries to please all our senses.