Architecture means beautiful or artistic building. Everyone builds in a fashion. Bees build, beavers build, birds build, men build. Our forefathers did not need much architecture when they lived in caves and dens of the earth; and even when they came to the surface, a tent, or wooden hut, or straw roof supported on poles, formed sufficient shelter for them. It was not till thousands of years later that they began to build in stone.
Their first houses would be of the simplest description —just four walls, and a roof to keep out the rain, and windows and a door to let them out and in (Figure 1). But by and by, the love of beauty, which is an instinct in human nature, would assert itself, and they would want to adorn their house.
They might put a little cap above the windows, or pillars beside the door; or they might work mouldings between the door and windows, or carry the outlines of the roof into gables and turrets, and domes and spires. Till at last, instead of a bare up and down flat wall, they would have a beautiful building, full of character and interest.
Figure 2 is a perfectly plain window.
Figure 3 has mouldings. If you compare the two, you will see what a difference the mouldings make.
Great architecture is seen best in the temples of the gods, as we should expect. The builders strove with each other which of them should make these the most beautiful, and the one who succeeded best got the name of "Architect," which means "Master Builder." We have many builders now, but few master builders. It is of the master builders and their work that we speak when we use the words Architect and Architecture.
Greek and Gothic
The first thing that strikes one in studying buildings is the variety of styles. Here is one all turrets and gables and round towers, with staircases inside, and all sorts of odd nooks and corners that you would like to explore; and then, again, you come upon another that is square and regular and "coldly fair." The one is Gothic, the other Greek.
These are the two principal styles, and when you know these two you know a good deal; because the others are more or less related to them—descendants, or second or third cousins, so to speak, twice removed, and with a different name, of course.
There are much older styles than the Greek. There are the Egyptian, and the Indian, and the Assyrian; but we cannot study everything, and it is best to begin with the styles nearer home, which we can see examples of in our own country or in Europe. These are:—The Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque or Norman, and the Gothic. The Renaissance, which followed the Gothic, is a revival of the Greek and Roman.