Five Facts About Roman Architecture
One thing that is most obvious about Roman architecture is that the ancient Romans built to last. We can see this by the number of structures still standing, and some are still in use over two thousand years later. This is partly due to their use of different building materials to those in everyday use and partly to their innovations in design.
1. The Romans were the first to use concrete.
Not only that, but they had a range of different types of concrete, each for a particular purpose. One variety even allowed them to build underwater for the first time. This, together with their mastery of the arch and vault, allowed the construction of long bridge spans. They realized that arches could also be stacked, allowing them to build to greater heights, carrying aqueducts across mountain valleys for long distances.
2. Apart from arches, they made wide use of vaults and domes.
Domes created large uninterrupted spaces for religious and public gatherings. This significantly impacted public life as it allowed for public gatherings for political, religious, and entertainment purposes.
The Colosseum, the huge amphitheater accommodating up to 60 000 spectators and home of the gladiators, is an example. The Pantheon, built as a temple in the 2nd century, is still the largest unsupported and unreinforced dome in the world.
3. The use of arches in the building of aqueducts allowed them to pipe water to private homes for the first time.
Not only was piped water available, at least to the homes of the wealthy, but they were heating it in underground furnaces. Thus they developed the first central heating systems, including underfloor heating.
4. The Romans constructed apartment buildings to house the poorer people in the crowded cities.
There were legal limits on the height of these buildings and the number of people they could accommodate for safety reasons, but these were often disregarded and sometimes reached 9 stories high. There were apartments on three sides and a wall on the fourth to allow some privacy in the central courtyard.
The materials used were often mud bricks and wood and were far inferior to those used in the construction of the townhouses. Each apartment had two small rooms and was meant for a single family, though up to 50 people often crammed in. The bottom floor was reserved for shops and workshops. It was rare to have in-home plumbing in an apartment. If there were running water available, it would only have been available on the lower stories.
5. In contrast, wealthy citizens often had a townhouse and a country villa.
These buildings had both running water and central heating and were decorated inside with mosaics on the floors and murals on the walls.
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