I made an effort this week to note classical elements in the architecture of Melbourne, Australia: my home city. We have many prominent buildings that promote classical architectural ideals. The first I noted was our state Parliament building, with its massive Doric columns. These columns represent strength and outwardly project a sense of stability. The State Library also caught my eye as I passed by on the tram. Its central rotunda is an architectural wonder, echoing the grand Renaissance buildings of Europe. Further along Swanston St is the Melbourne Town Hall. It proudly displays Corinthian style columns, beneath a striking pediment. I also passed by the Immigration Museum over the weekend and acknowledged the Ionic columns on the facade. They give light to the building and perfectly framed the overall symmetrical aspect. There were so many examples (Royal Exhibition Building, Shrine of Remembrance, Princess Theatre) that I couldn’t keep up.
If you noticed, many of the buildings described above are public spaces. For many cities and towns across the world, public buildings take inspiration from the classical world. People walk past these buildings every day and may not even realise they are peeking into the past. Classically inspired architecture is so pervasive that it even appears in modern cartoons. Family Guy’s Quahog City Hall is a good example, and so is the museum in the Simpsons, of course I could go on!
Classical architecture is alive today. So, next time you are travelling home, or you are in the city during the weekend, look up. Next time you are studying in the library or visiting a museum, look around. And next time you are watching Family Guy, pay attention. You may start to notice that classical architecture is everywhere.
Simon J. Young