Cross-Cultural Influences on Architecture


We can make verifiable statements about formal qualities, such as materials and methods used or their perceptual effects. Moving beyond this, you might seek patterns, such as when one culture influences another through trade or migration. We often find common archetypes in images and narrative artifacts from a diversity of cultural sources. However, it is important to remain grounded in evidence and not leap to conclusions that may reflect personal or cultural biases.

This article presents several examples of how the migration and interaction of peoples from different cultures have affected architecture.

As overland and marine trade routes expanded between Eastern and Western civilizations, so did the influence of cultural styles in architecture, religion, and commerce. The most important of these passages was the Silk Road, a system of routes developed over hundreds of years across the European and Asian continents. Along this route are buildings that show cross-cultural influences in their design. One, in particular, is the Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore, Pakistan. Completed around 1635 CE, the structure shows characteristics of Chinese design in the cantilevered roof, terraced dome, and sectioned facades. Islamic features include tripartite arches and geometric decorative tiles.

Silk Road map

Silk Road Map

David Baum, 'Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount', Jerusalem. 5th century CE

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem. 5th century CE

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem offers different cultural influences manifest in one building: a classic Greek colonnade at the main entrance, the gold dome and central turret supporting it, western style arches, and colorful Islamic surface embellishment.

View a detail of the exterior wall in the image below.

Wayne McClean, 'Dome of the Rock', wall detail, Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock, wall detail, Jerusalem

The Louvre Palace in Paris, once the official royal residence and now one of the world's biggest museums, had its beginnings in the 12th century but did not achieve its present form until recently. The building's style is French Renaissance – marked by formal symmetry, horizontal stability, and restrained ornamentation. The Louvre executive board chose architect I. M. Pei's glass pyramid design as the defining element for the new main entry in 1989. The choice was a great success: the pyramid further defines the public space above ground and gives natural light and a sense of openness to the underground lobby beneath it.

Nick Rossino, 'The Louvre Pyramid', 1989, I.M. Pei

The Louvre Pyramid, I.M. Pei. 1989

For more on the cultural aspects of architecture in the context of a historical overview, read this article. Notice how culture and architecture reflect each other in their specific contexts.

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Source: Christopher Gildow,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Last modified: Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 4:09 PM