Both the Ancient Egypt and Maya civilisationsboth regarded light as important, and this is reflected through their approachto architecture.
Their structures often incorporated light into the design, andtwo particular buildings that highlight this is Abu-Simbel, built by ancient Egyptiancivilisation, and El Castillo built by the Mayans. Abu-Simbel, built under thereign of King Ramesses II around 1200 BC, is two vast temples carved into themountainside originally situated in Nubia. They were built as a monument to thepharaoh and his queen Nefertari, and were dedicated to the worship of theEgyptian gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty,and Ptah, as well as Ramesses himself.
In its original location, the greattemple was aligned on a certain axis such that on the 22nd ofOctober and February, the statues at the back of the temple were illuminated asan effect of sunlight penetrating the building. All statues of the gods were illuminated except for the statue of Ptah,god of the underworld. This was done supposedly to commemorate the pharaoh’sbirthday and coronation day, although there is no straight evidence supportingthis.
These dates have changed however, due to their relocation between1964-1968 and the slight shift of the northern tropic, meaning the templeceremony now occurs on the 21st of October and February. ElCastillo, a temple in Chichen Itza dedicated to the god Kukulkan, was builtsomewhere between the 9th and 12th century by the Mayacivilisation. Again, this structure was orientated along a specific axis to encompassthe effects of the natural light.
The large square base pyramid structure wasbuilt in a layered way, with each section supporting a slightly smaller one ontop to create this pyramid shape upwards to the temple at the top of thebuilding. Because of these ‘layers’, during the spring and autumn equinoxes,the sunlight causes a triangular patterned shadow across the northern face ofthe building. This interaction with the light is important as down the northside steps runs a carved snake balustrade, which, when this shadow is present,gives the impression of a serpent slithering down the side of the structure. Itis in this way that the feathered snake god of the Mayan people, Kukulkan, isrepresented by the building itself. Anotherexample of where light has been incorporated to the design of a monumentalbuilding is the Pantheon in Rome. A large opening in the centre of the domeroof structure is believed to have been used as a way of illuminating theentrance of the emperor for specific events. The hole allows a singular beam ofsun into the interior during the March and September, as well as on the date Romeis said to have been founded, April 21st.
QuestionTwo: Religionwas of a great importance to Ancient Mesopotamian civilisation and IndianBuddhists, and both societies built great buildings as a way of connecting andworshipping their gods. Indian Buddhists constructed many places of worship andmeditation, called stupa. These were large dome structures with no interiorspace, and often contained either relics or were a symbolisation of the Buddhaand features of Buddhist theology. The crown of the dome would be aligned witha cosmic axis, as a way of connecting with above.
It is believed the earlystupa were built from materials like wood or were only small burial mounds, butthis changed to more durable materials such as stone over time. In Ancient Mesopotamiancivilisation, structures called ziggurats which would form part of a temple,and was seen as a resting place for the gods. Although both stupa and zigguratswere religious buildings, they differ greatly. Unlike stupa, ziggurats wereconstructed as large towers with steps to a temple on top.
One of the largestziggurats, in the city of Ur, a city that worshipped the god of the moon,Nannar, is a large multi-levelled structure, with three staircases leading upwardsto the temple, and vast buttressed walls. There are also differences in termsof material use, as ziggurats were made with a core structure of sun-bakedbricks, and outer facades of fired brickwork. It is because of this that unfortunately mostziggurats haven’t retained their original height due to weathering, and so the temple/shrinethought to sit atop, are no longer seen. They were also not places of publicworship, and priests would be the only members who could gain access. Zigguratswere the base layer on which a temple sat, acting to move the temple closer tothe sky, and so there was rarely use of any internal space, similar to thestupa seen in Indian Buddhist construction. There is also a slight differencein their use, as the top of the ziggurat was where the temple sat, and so therewas direct access to here through large stairs. However, with the Buddhiststupa, there was no clear or direct access to the central top part of the domewhere the cosmic axis aligned through.
Thesemonumental temples were great religious structures, and although both werededicated to connection with their civilisations gods and often had no orlimited internal space, the architectural styles of each differ greatly. Question3: TheParthenon in Athens and the Temple of Apollo in Didyma are both examples ofGreek architecture, but help to show how there were differences between a Greekmainland temple and one situated in Asia minor. The Temple of Apollo, locatednear a sacred spring in Didyma is the third structure built on the site, followingthe destruction of the previous building by either King Darius or his heir,King Xerxes. The building was never fully completed, even though constructioncontinued over centuries, and was left lacking a cornice and full constructionof even some of the columns. This was partly due to its immense size; with aplatform base of 5500 square metres which formed a flat area for building. Thisplatform supported 122 columns, each of a 2.5m diameter.
The architects of thistemple are thought to have been inspired by previous temples built on theisland of Samos and in Ephesus. A key difference of this temple fromtraditional Greek temples, is that it had to preserve the site of the naturalspring of which it was built around, so the central section of the temple wasat ground level, connected by tunnels to the upper platform. This differs fromthe Parthenon, which contains an inner section at ground level. The Parthenon is a temple located at the topof the hill of the Acropolis, completed around 432 BC, and is also a buildingthat was built to replace a previous one.
It is substantially smaller than thetemple in Didyma, with only 8 external columns on each end, and 17 on eitherside. At each end, there are two rows of columns, unlike the Temple of Apollo,which had internal columns throughout the structure. The columns also differ instyle, as the Parthenon employs columns of the Doric order, with no bases andsimple capitals, whereas the columns in the Temple of Apollo are of the Ionicand Corinthian order, which stood on bases separating the shaft from thestylobate. The interior held a structure separated into two compartments, differingfrom the garden found at ground level at the Temple of Apollo. Originally therewas a pediment at either end, which held sculpted figures.