The History of Building Design

Nowadays, if you are planning a building project, it’s easy to find a cad design service that can create your drawings for you ready to pass onto the builders. Life hasn't always been so easy, and building design has come a long way since mankind first started making permanent shelters.


Prehistoric Architecture

They may not have left written records, but prehistoric people were clearly masters of large scale building projects. Take Stonehenge for example, although we can show methods using ancient materials that would allow the massive stones to be manipulated it would still be an enormous undertaking to create. In the 1950s, when they needed to move some of the stones, the largest crane in the country was required for the heavy lifting.

Classical Times

Some of the earliest writings about architecture date from the first century BC when the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius wrote his De Architectura or "ten books on architecture". In it, he recommended the use of mathematical principles to ensure symmetry and proportion and introduced the "Classical Orders" of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, distinguished chiefly by the column style used in building.

Better Load Bearing

When the Romans invented concrete, they were suddenly able to use arches and domes to create larger open spaces without the need for quite so many columns. When the capital of the Roman Empire moved to Byzantium, so too did the dome, leading to the evolution of the Byzantine style.

To the west, churches and castles were being built with thick walls and rounded arches in the Romanesque style. This gradually lightened as builders learnt techniques such as pointed arches, flying buttresses and ribbed vaulting. Some of the best-preserved examples of the Gothic use of stone to create light, airy, almost gravity defining construction can now be seen in our cathedrals, churches and castles that have stood the test of time.

The Renaissance

Some 1,500 years after Vitruvius wrote about his classical orders the ideas were outlined by the Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola in his "The Five Orders of Architecture", published in 1563. The book went on to become a guide for builders across western Europe.

Only a few years later in 1570 Andrea Palladio took advantage of a hi-tech approach to publishing, using the then-innovative movable type to publish  I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura or "The Four Books of Architecture", bringing the idea that Classical rules could be used for private dwellings as well as grand temples and public spaces.

Classic revival – again and again

The influence of classical ideas seems challenging to kill. Neoclassicism, neo-gothic and to a lesser extent Beaux Arts architecture gives new life to old ideas. Not every architect is happy with the old rules; however, and this is seen in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods with curves and clean lines taking over from domes and columns.

To the present day


As new materials and new construction techniques were explored in the 20th century so too were the boundaries of architecture pushed. Modernism, post-modernism, brutalism, structuralism … the number of existing buildings only matches the number of names.

With the development of CAD systems in the 1970s and their widespread adoption throughout the latter part of the 20th century, buildings were able to become even more imaginative, with approaches such as those seen in the Lloyd's Building in London finding new solutions to age-old problems.

The next stage is the adoption of BIM and exploration of how a greater understanding of the building as a whole can unleash further innovation. Who knows what the 21st century holds for building design?