The Romans and the early Christians also used the wooden truss for roofing the wide spans of their basilica halls. Neither Greek, Chinese, nor Japanese architecture used the vault system of construction. However, in the Asian division of the Roman Empire, vault development continued; Byzantine architects experimented with new principles and developed the pendentive, used brilliantly in the 6th cent. for the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
The Romanesque architecture of the early Middle Ages was notable for strong, simple, massive forms and vaults executed in cut stone. In Lombard Romanesque (11th cent.) the Byzantine concentration of vault thrusts was improved by the device of ribs and of piers to support them. The idea of an organic supporting and buttressing skeleton of masonry (see buttress), here appearing in embryo, became the vitalizing aim of the medieval builders. In 13th-century Gothic architecture it emerged in perfected form, as in the Amiens and Chartres cathedrals.
The birth of Renaissance architecture (15th cent.) inaugurated a period of several hundred years in Western architecture during which the multiple and complex buildings of the modern world began to emerge, while at the same time no new and compelling structural conceptions appeared. The forms and ornaments of Roman antiquity were resuscitated again and again and were ordered into numberless new combinations, and structure served chiefly as a convenient tool for attaining these effects. The complex, highly decorated baroque style was the chief manifestation of the 17th-century architectural aesthetic. The Georgian style was among architecture's notable 18th-century expressions (see Georgian architecture). The first half of the 19th cent. was given over to the classic revival and the Gothic revival.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.