As one of the world’s first civilizations, Mesopotamian architecture is both very similar and very different from the architecture of other ancient cultures, and of course, the world today. Many aspects of Mesopotamian architecture influenced the development of architecture in Europe and Asia, as can be seen in the design of their shared building qualities.
In general, Mesopotamian architecture was focused more on being functional, rather than being pretty. Houses were designed to fit as many people in as small a space as possible, and there was little focus placed on comfort or style. Because of this, not many examples of Mesopotamian architecture remain in the world.
The materials used to build homes in Mesopotamia were similar to the ones we use today. The main materials used were mud brick, mud plaster to cover the walls, and wood to build doors and frame windows. The bricks would be baked in the sun to make them more solid, and to help them stay together better.
However, these bricks were not very resistant to the weather, and the houses of Mesopotamia eventually fell apart because of this. This is why so few Mesopotamian houses have been uncovered by archaeologists – they fell apart long, long ago due to the way that they were built.
Later generations of Mesopotamians corrected this issue somewhat, by using stone as well as brick to form the outside wall of the house, but this didn’t improve things very much.
Most Mesopotamian houses had a center room, with every other room in the house leading off it. Many Mesopotamian houses had a courtyard as the center room, which would cool the house down in hot weather.
This courtyard, called the tarbasu in Akkadia, was the main feature of the house, and the only part of the house that the Mesopotamians would put any work into maintaining. The families of Mesopotamia typically slept in a single room, and rarely used beds. The average size of Mesopotamian house was 90m2.
The cities of Mesopotamia were the first cities in the world. Like modern cities, the growth of Mesopotamian cities was partly deliberate, and partly accidental. Most Mesopotamian cities were built for defense, and were surrounded by a strong ring wall. Most cities had internal canals for trading and transport.
Despite the fact that the city’s size was limited by its wall, the urban district would usually spread outside the gate, and there would be a cluster of homes outside the city wall. Peasants would live in these houses, away from the wealthy center of the city.
The center of the city would usually have a high temple, a place for priests and peasants to pray together. Some cities had ziggurats or palaces in the center of town, but not all.
Most Mesopotamian cities were divided into residential, commercial and civil districts. The residential areas were segmented by profession, so everybody working in one job would live together.
The cities always had a small amount of agricultural land contained within the walls, and a network of roads/canals would connect the rest of the city to this land. The canals were the most important means of transport in the cities of Mesopotamia.
One unique example of Mesopotamian architecture is the ziggurat. A ziggurat is a step-based structure similar to a pyramid, but with a flat top. Ziggurats were built to honor the gods, and were designated as a place of worship for peasants. Ziggurats are a uniquely Mesopotamian structure, and never appeared anywhere else in the world. The biggest ziggurat is the Ziggurat of Ur.
– Mud brick, sunbaked.
– 90 m2.
– A middle room, frequently a courtyard.
– Most Mesopotamian cities were surrounded by a thick ring wall to keep invaders out.
– The ziggurat.