In this introduction to Neoclassical Architecture, we will discuss the various generalities and specifics of Neoclassical Architecture in order to invite you to explore the world of architecture.

Neoclassical Architecture started in the mid 18th Century (1700s) as a response to baroque and racoco styles.

Noted, baroque and racoco styles were more ornate, intricate, and even theatrical.

By the 19th century, Neoclassical Architecture dominated the countryside of Britain, in no small part due to architects Robert Adam and John Soane.

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Who Were The Architects Robert Adam & John Soane?

Robert Adam (July 3, 1728 – March 3, 1792) was known as a Scottish architect, interior designer, and furniture designer.

Adam turned away the Palladian style of architecture, preferring to take inspiration from classical antiquity, while still being innovative and not overly attached to the past.

With inspiration from Greco-Roman Architecture from long before, Adam began to formulate a style of architecture known as Neoclassical Architecture.

Adam was inspired by archeological findings at Herculaneum and Pompeii, giving him ample material for inspiration.

Architect John Soane (September 10, 1753 – January 20, 1837) was a great contributor to Neoclassical Architecture.

Unlike Robert Adam, whose father was the foremost architect in Scotland, John Soane was the son of a bricklayer.

However, John Soane rose in achievement, and became an architecture professor at the Royal Academy.

His most well-known work was the architecture for the Bank of England, done in Neoclassical style.

Architect Soane also contributed architecture to both the House of Lords and House of Commons at Westminster.

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Neoclassical Architecture in America

Meanwhile, in the United States of America, some of the founding fathers developed a predilection for the Neoclassical Architecture style.

Thomas Jefferson obviously wrote the Declaration of Independence, but you might be surprised to note that Thomas Jefferson was also an architect.

As a student of freedom and rational design, Thomas Jefferson found interest in Neoclassical Architecture because of its roots in the architecture of Rome and Greece, two places known for their republics.

Of course, this influenced Thomas Jefferson’s architecture, which led to his beautiful Neoclassical house, Monticello.


Thomas Jefferson also became the architect of the Virginia State Capitol Building, modeled after a Roman temple in France.

Virginia State Capitol.

The inspiration of Thomas Jefferson led to the design of the White House and the US Capitol, two perfect examples of Neoclassical Architecture.

At the US Capitol, the designs were submitted by contest and the winner was an American architect named William Thornton.

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Characteristics of Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassical Architecture takes elements of design frequently found in Greek and Roman architecture of antiquity.

Neoclassical buildings tend to have grandeur of scale, and are often large and imposing structures.

There is a focus on symmetry with Neoclassical Architecture, where the left and right of a building are replicas of each other.

There is also a focus on repetition with Neoclassical Architecture, for example with many windows repeated in style for either side of the building.

Of course, there is Greek and Roman style detailing throughout, and the prominent usage of columns.

There are long sequences of columns called colonnades.

There are rotundas, often covered by a dome.

There are porticoes, a porch at an entrance aligned with columns.

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The 3 Types of Neoclassical Architecture

There are 3 types of Neoclassical Architecture that were most often used for the great buildings of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

  • Temple Style Buildings
  • Palladian Buildings
  • Classical Block Buildings

First, we have Temple Style Buildings.

Temple style buildings are inspired by ancient temples in Rome and Greece.

For example, the Pantheon in Paris, France is based on the ancient Pantheon found in Rome.

Pantheon, Paris, France

Next, we have Palladian buildings.

With Palladian buildings, you have a front portico with columns and the quintessential triangle at the top.

Then, you have symmetrical sides to the building, often featuring repetitive windows and styling above and below the windows.

An example of Palladian Neoclassical Architecture.

And next, we have Classical Block buildings.

With classical block buildings, you have a rectangular, square appearance.

The exterior is divided into many levels, and features repetitive archways and columns.

These three styles of Neoclassical Architecture are sometimes intermingled and used together.

When combined together, masterful works of art and architecture arise.

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The Time Period of Neoclassical Architecture

Historians differ on the original beginning of the period of Neoclassical Architecture.

Some architecture historians define early Neoclassical Architecture as commencing in 1640.

Many mainstream sources, however, say that the true period of Neoclassical Architecture began around 1750, as the Americans contemplated their republic.

Neoclassical Architecture found architects in America, France, England, Italy, Russia, and Germany.

Many modern buildings continue to take inspiration from Neoclassical Architecture, including many homes in the American suburbs.

The origins of Neoclassical Architecture are sourced to Italy and France.

Italy sources the beginnings of Neoclassical Architecture to an architect named Andrea Palladio.

Architect Andrea Palladio began to bring Neoclassical principles into his architecture in the 16th Century.

Here, you can take note of a beautiful villa called Villa Emo.

The Villa Emo was found to be built around 1561, and demonstrates Palladian (and Neoclassical Architecture) done to minute detail.

Villa Emo, by architect Andrea Palladio

Such a beautiful Villa.

So inspired and ahead of its time.

When speaking about the time period of Neoclassical Architecture, we see that architects have been taking inspiration from the Greeks and Romans for hundreds of years.

At the same time, we can note that the world of architecture cohesively came together around Neoclassical Architecture with origins in the 16th century, inspiration in the 17th century, and then mainstream acceptance in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Neoclassical Architecture gained ground in the mid 18th Century (1700s) as a response to baroque and racoco styles.

Architects from Scotland and England were instrumental in the development of Neoclassical Architecture into the mainstream of the architectural world.

In America, the founding fathers made good use of Neoclassical Architecture, both for personal use and for the public good.

Examples of Neoclassical Architecture include the US Capitol building and the White House.

Neoclassical Architecture chooses design elements frequently found in Greek and Roman ancient architecture.

Frequently found in the characteristics of Neoclassical Architecture include the use of columns, especially columns in a row (colonnade).

Porticoes are a feature of Neoclassical Architecture, with a large and tall porch overlook.

Domes are often used with these designs.

There are three styles of Neoclassical Architecture.

First we have temple style architecture, for example looking at the Pantheon in France.

Next, we have Palladian architecture, which features symmetry, repetitive windows and doors, and a row of columns in the center.

Finally, we have classical block buildings, which frequently have different architectural styling on each floor of the building.

As for the time period of Neoclassical Architecture, there is some discrepancy as to when Neoclassical Architecture really began.

Neoclassical Architecture achieved mainstream usage in the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, Neoclassical style architectural buildings were found in the 17th century and 16th century as well.

Thank you for reading about Neoclassical Architecture.

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