enough to accommodate 1,600 bathers; encircling landscaped parks and gardens; and a perimeter ring of shops, lecture halls, and pavilions. Laid out symmetrically, the compactly planned baths offered identical bathing circuits on either side of the central (and shorter) axis. The sequence of bathing spaces on that axis comprised the hot bath (caldarium), warm bath (tepidarium), and the cold bath (frigidarium) in a large unheated central hall. The last, which also served as a foyer, was open on one side, allowing easy access to the open-air swimming pool (natatio). Changing rooms (apodyteria), gymnasia, or exercise yards (palaestrae), with terraced porticoes, and sauna (laconica) were arranged symmetrically on the transverse axis. Rooms for massage, manicure, and other services associated with the bathing routine were featured on either side of the baths. Decorative interior finishes—colored marble veneers on walls, marble, basalt and granite columns and arches, and coarsely textured black-and-white mosaic floors—created a rich and sumptuous character.

Since the baths were public facilities that attracted large numbers of people, the gathering spaces needed to be vast and uncluttered with structural elements. In the absence of structural impediments, bathers were afforded extended views to various parts of the thermae. The Romans achieved these objectives by exploiting the semicircular arch. The rectangular central hall of the Baths of Caracalla demonstrated their structural method. It was roofed with an enormous semicircular intersecting concrete vault divided into three compartments. Each was 108 feet (30 meters) high and rested at the corners on enormous piers. Clerestory windows adequately lit the hall.

Water for the Baths of Caracalla flowed from a branch of the Aqua Marcia aqueduct into a huge reservoir, divided into eighteen chambers with a total capacity of about 2.2 million gallons (10 million liters). The water was carried through pipes laid underneath the gardens to the main building, where it was distributed directly to the cold pools, or to wood-fired boilers, where it was heated for the warm and hot baths. For ease of inspection and maintenance, distribution pipes and waste drains were located in separate tunnels. A separate network of tunnels was used to store wood for about fifty furnaces (praefurnia) that heated the saunas (laconica) and other rooms via a hot-air system (hypocausta) beneath the floors. The heated rooms were on the southwestern side of the complex to gain maximum benefit from the sun; all had large windows. The hottest room, the circular, protruding caldarium, was covered by a 115-foot-diameter (35-meter) dome, higher than the Pantheon’s and only slightly less in span.

The Baths of Caracalla are now in ruins, but their soaring height and impressive scale allow visitors to appreciate their size and massiveness.

See also

Roman concrete construction

Further reading

Piranomonte, Marina. 1998. Le Terme di Caracalla. Milan: Electra.

Sear, Frank. 1989. Roman Architecture. London: Batsford.

Ward-Perkins, J. B. 1981. Roman Imperial Architecture. Harmondsworth. UK: Penguin.

The Bauhaus


The German design school known as the Bauhaus (literally, house of building), that functioned between 1919 and 1932, laid the foundation of a different kind of architectural education, one that was eventually adopted throughout the world. It restored the links between design and making that had been undermined during the Renaissance and virtually destroyed by the European academies. Much of the Bauhaus’s significance lies in the fact that some of its leaders migrated to the United States in the 1930s to head up the schools of architecture at Harvard and the Illinois Institute of Technology; other members also became teachers and practitioners in America.

The Bauhaus was conceived by Walter Gropius (1883–1969). After reluctantly commencing architectural studies at Berlin-Charlottenberg in 1905, between 1907 and 1910 he worked in the office of Peter Behrens before forming a partnership with a fellow employee, Adolf Meyer. During World War I Gropius served as a cavalry officer, and following the November 1918 armistice he was appointed director of two separate institutions in Weimar, Saxony, Germany: