The Classical style, developed by Greek architects in the sixth century BC and brought to perfection, a century later, in the buildings on the Acropolis in Athens, has had much the most enduring influence on European architecture. The constructional principle is simple and depends on a series of posts with lintels placed above them. In Greek architecture these posts began as the trunks of trees but soon were given monumental form as stone columns surrounding the walls of a temple or marking its entrance in a distinctive way. The gable ends of a Greek temple were formed as a low, triangular pediment that was built above the columns and lintels of the temple front.

If the system was simple the proportion and refinement of Greek architecture were meticulously considered. The diameter of the shaft of the columns provided a unity of measurement which dictated the proportions of the whole. Every element of the architecture from the steps the building stood on to the bases and capitals of its columns, the horizontal beams above, the frieze and the cornice at the edge of the roof, were designed according to precise mathematical ratios and in traditional forms.

The Greeks developed three distinctive forms in their buildings. These are known as the Classical Orders and are distinguished as Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Roman Empire, while using the arch and dome in a different constructional system, adopted the formal language of Greek Classicism to give authority to its buildings so that the forms of Classical architecture lasted for over a thousand years. Elements were copied in Romanesque buildings and in Italy, in the later Middle Ages, the revival of Classical ideas led to the creation of a distinctive style of Renaissance architecture which is Classical in its roots. Italian Classiciam spread throughout Europe to Britain and Ireland in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Carlow Courthouse, Carlow

Carlow Courthouse – Front approach. Architect: William Vitruvius Morrison (1794-1838). Carlow Courthouse was designed by William Vitruvius Morrison and completed in 1834. It was built under the patronage of the Grand Jury and the Bruen Family of Oak Park, Carlow. It is built of Carlow Granite and set on a high podium, approached by nineteen steps. The Courthouse is designed in the classical style with a projecting central block, screened by an Ionic portico of eight columns with pediment and cornice. On either side of the main hall are the courtrooms covered by half domes and lit through diocletian windows. The courthouse is surrounded by fine cast iron railings and is strategically situated at the junction of the Athy Road and the Old Dublin Road. The interior was refurnished c. 1995 but some of the original features remain intact. Carlow Courthouse is considered to be one of the finest courthouses in Ireland.

Carlow County Library

Carlow Courthouse, Carlow - Carlow County Library

Oak Park House, Oak Park (Painestown), Carlow

The Bruen Family purchased Oak Park, formerly known as Painestown around the year 1775. In 1832, Henry Bruen commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to redesign the house. It is remodelled in the classical style and retains the existing house as its central component. The front façade features a two-storey Ionic portico set on a pedestal. Today Oak Park House and demesne is the property of Teagasc – the agricultural research body. It has recently become the administrative headquarters for Teagasc.

Carlow County Library

Oak Park House, Oak Park (Painestown), Carlow - Carlow County Library

Oak Park Arch detail

Architectural detail from the Triumphal Arch at Oakpark. It depicts the upper portion of one set of twin columns with architrave and moulding. The arch also features a dentil, a series of closely spaced rectangular blocks beneath the corona and cornice. The Ionic columns feature volutes which are typical of the style, and plain shafts. The twin columns flank the archway leading to the main entrance drive of Oakpark House former home of the Bruen Family.

Carlow County Library

Oak Park Arch detail - Carlow County Library

Monaghan Courthouse (1979)

The Courthouse, built in 1829 with stone from the local mountain quarry at Eshnaglogh, is ‘a handsome modern building of hewn stone, containing spacious courtrooms and all requisite offices, and in every respect well suited to its purpose’. Brett describes it as a handsome, if rather heavy, courthouse built of unusually large blocks of well dressed yellowish stone. The pediment is carried on half-fluted Doric columns in antis, in the pediment a variant on the Hanoverian coat-of-arms. The lion and the unicorn are carved with uncommon crispness and vigour.

Permission to reproduce this photograph kindly granted by Monaghan County Museum

Monaghan Courthouse (1979) - Permission to reproduce this photograph kindly granted by Monaghan County Museum

previousPrevious - Gothic
Next - Picturesquenext