The Architectural History of the Column

Posted by Robert on 2/28/2014 to Architectural & Decor
Columns have been an integral element of architecture for thousands of years, with the earliest forms used for supporting roofs of small buildings during the Bronze Age. A traditional column has three basic components, the base, the shaft and the capital. The base and capital are traditionally wider than the shaft, as it provided a stronger support for the structure. While load-bearing was their initial function, the Greeks an Romans turned the column into an art form, adding sculpted floral patterns, patterns and flourishes for decorative purposes. 

There are seven primary forms of the column, with derivative styles branching out by culture. Those seven forms are:

The Doric Column - The earliest embellished column, the decorative aspects are very simple and straightforward. It lacked the base element that was featured in most other forms, with the capital having a lower circle topped by a square abutment. The most recognizable example of a modern Doric column can be found in front of the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C.

The Ionic Column - More elaborate than the Doric column, the Ionic column were decorated with a fluted shaft, bases in the form of larger rings, and capitals that often featured scrolling. You can find this form of column throughout our nation's capitol, from the Supreme Court Building to the old Senate Chamber.

The Corinthian Column - The Corinthian column was the first to integrate floral and leave patterns into the sculpted aspects. Significantly more elaborate than its predecessors, Corinthian columns can be found in front of the Capitol Building, as well as many older Victorian-era homes.

The Tuscan Column - Developed in Italy and used as a predominant architectural fixture of the Roman Empire, the Tuscan column has a smooth-faced shaft and wider flat bases and capitals.

The Composite Column - A hybrid column developed by the Romans, the Composite column offered many of the details brought forward with the Ionic and Corinthian columns. Extremely popular with government buildings in France, many Composite columns had extremely elaborate capital decoration.

The Solomonic Column - The Solomonic style is primarily used to describe the helical twisting form of the column's shaft. It is often combined with Corinthian base and capital elements. While used all over the world, it became extremely possible in the Middle East.

The Egyptian Column - The Egyptian columns differed from the Corinthian column in two primary areas. First, the shaft itself was often sculpted to resemble trees or other plants, and they were also more frequently painted and decorated with lavish embellishments. Easily the most garish of the column styles.

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