Westbury’s Pick: The Pantheon
Each month, we take a look at a different architect or craftsman that has inspired us here at Westbury. This month we’ve picked The Pantheon, in Rome
Located in a maze of cobbled lanes in the heart of Rome, The Pantheon stands proud, begging to be discovered. Translated to mean the ‘Temple of Every God’, the Pantheon is thought to have been built between AD 118 and 125.
The structure has been in continuous use throughout history, and yet it currently stands as one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. The fact that the Pantheon managed to survive barbarian raids when the other monuments shattered to pieces remains a mystery to this day.
The Pantheon building is circular in shape with an entrance porch made up of large granite Corinthian columns comprising a total of eight at the foreground and two groups of four behind. A rectangular chamber connects the porch to the rotunda, which is topped by the iconic dome.
The exact building material of The Pantheon is still not known, but rather interestingly, its composition does bear striking similarities to modern concrete, making the structure appear to be way ahead of its time. Whatever its disposition, the Pantheon has an impressive reputation; given its age and size it has withstood the test of time, damage, and gravity, while preserving all its splendor and charm.
Comprising of a series of intersecting arches, the architectural structure of the Pantheon is quite magnificent. The arches sit upon eight piers, running through the centre to meet each outer face. These arches correspond to the eight floor-level bays which contain grand statues.
Aloft the arches sits the Pantheon’s giant dome, with its famous hole in the centre (referred to as the eye, or oculus). At 43.30 meters in diameter, the dome is thought to have been the largest dome in the world for around 1,300 years, and to this day, it remains as the largest unsupported dome in the world. Incredibly, the distance from the top of dome to bottom of the temple’s floor is exactly equal to the dome’s diameter; a true sign of architectural ingenuity.
The dome itself is held up by the arches. The Romans perfected the techniques and combination of building materials to construct these structures, using heavy stones like travertine on the lower levels, tufa and brick in the central drum, and lightweight pumice on the ceiling.
The interior of Pantheon is equally as impressive in its architecture and ergonomics. The dome is believed to symbolise the arched vault of the heavens. The oculus in the centre and the entry door are the only sources of natural light inside of the rotunda. Throughout the day, the light comes in through the oculus and moves across the interior like a sundial in reverse. This hole also offers ventilation, cooling the room below, while the sloped floor structure serves as a drainage system for any rainfall.
Decorated with circles and squares, the interior design is consistent throughout, with a checkerboard floor providing stark contrast to the concentric circular patterns in the dome. The interior is divided from floor to ceiling into separate zones, representing different schemes.
The masterful architecture practices combined with the ergonomic design of The Pantheon resonate with the way we design our orangeries and garden rooms here at Westbury, and for that reason we have chosen it as this month’s Pick.