The Spanish architecture is characterized by sharp contrasts between light and dark sides, alternating between austerity and lavish decorations and thick walls with small windows to keep the sunlight and heat out. The styles vary from region to region and represent Spain as a union. The Moorish (North African) predominance established a central patio surrounded by the arcaded center. The oldest works of architecture in Spain date back to the megalythicale culture years, particularly 3000 BC.
Many Romanesque monuments (8th – 13th century) have been well-preserved, among which the most important is the great Segovia aqueduct and Amphitheater of Merida. Romanesque churches were built mainly in Catalonia and along the pilgrim route to Santiago. Some of the characteristics of Romanesque architecture are round arches, thick walls, and a shortage of windows.
The Moors have also left a plentiful and beautiful heritage in Spanish architecture. In the former period (8th to 15th century), they brought much wealth to Spain. The Moorish empire was very well developed, including mathematics, poetry, and geography. The Moors used the most beautiful decorations of their architectural construction works for the interior, in which geometric, handwriting, and floral were represented on tiles and plaster.
The Moors made much use of the called Horseshoe or Keyhole arch of the Visigoten, called later the Moorish arch. Examples of Moorish architecture can be easily found in southern Spain. In Cordoba, there is one of the most beautiful Moorish mosques, visited by many tourists each year.
The Gothic period | Spanish architecture
Gothic style came from France to Spain in the 12th century. During that period (12th-16th century), the round arches were replaced by the higher arches and big windows were introduced in architecture, as the walls became stronger. Sculpted Gothic decorations were the most common in the Flamboyant Style of the 15th century. After the fall of Granada, the late Gothic style of Isabella became popular.
At the same time, Moorish craftsmen developed in the reconquered areas a very decorative Christian-Muslim Mudejar style. The Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of techniques and ways of understanding architecture resulting from Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side, emerged as an architectural style in the 12th century on the Iberian peninsula. It is characterised by the use of brick as the main material. Mudéjar did not involve the creation of new shapes or structures (unlike Gothic or Romanesque), but the reinterpretation of Western cultural styles through Islamic influences.
Around 1500, Spain was under the influence of the Renaissance (16th century), a new architectural style. Italian craftsmen and Spanish artists reigned in Italy and took inspiration from the development of this new style. The renaissance maintains the architecture of ancient Rome, which is characterized by symmetry and the use of the round arch, Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Early Spanish Renaissance architecture is called “plateresque”, because it is characterized by detailed works of a silversmith. One of the most representative monuments of plateresque is the University of Salamanca.
After the Renaissance, the era of Baroque came (17th-18th century) from a desire to play and bring back the motion. The decoration was extravagant with excessive carvings and twisted columns. Exaggerated baroque churrigueresque style is named after the architect’s family Churriguera. However, it was mainly spread by their successors. We can observe two opposing baroque features: the works of Juan Herrera are remarkably strict (eg. Gr Escorial Monastery near Madrid), while the works of Churriguera used extremely rich ornaments. In the region of Galicia, there is another variation of the Baroque style, called Baroco Compostelano, with Santiago de Compostela as its baroque center.
At the time of Modernism (late 19th century and until now), Spain played a highly outstanding role again. The most representative modernism work is the Cathedral of Sagrada Familia of Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona. Until today Barcelona is still a center of modern and even futuristic architecture in Spain.