Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions

The Orders

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The Doric Order

ClassicalGlossary Term columns generally belong to one of five main ordersGlossary Term: the Doric, with its closeGlossary Term cousin the Tuscan; the Ionic; the Corinthian, and the nearly related CompositeGlossary Term. You will also see a number of variants, often used in conjunction with these main types.

The classicalGlossary Term ordersGlossary Term differ from the columns of other styles and traditions in that they share certain codified forms. The columns have upwardly tapering shafts of fixed or limited proportions, distinctive capitals (the sectionGlossary Term at the top), and - usually - a distinctive baseGlossary Term.

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The Ionic Order
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The Corinthian Order

Each type goes with its own treatment of the entablatureGlossary Term, the termGlossary Term for the beam that spans between the columns. This is generally divided horizontally into three. The lowest division, usually left plain, is the architraveGlossary Term. In the middle is the friezeGlossary Term, which may be decoratedGlossary Term or sculpted. The top sectionGlossary Term, which projects furthest, is the corniceGlossary Term (a termGlossary Term sometimes used loosely for the whole entablatureGlossary Term). It too is often embellished, usually with abstract architectural forms. Strictly the distances between the columns are also regulated, to preserve harmony of proportion, though paired, grouped and even overlapping columns are also common. Columns used together in this way are called a colonnadeGlossary Term.

Many buildings are unsuited to the use of free-standing columns. In these cases columns are sometimes engaged, that is they appear as if set into the wall. Sometimes half-columns appear, sometimes three-quarter columns; quarter-columns are used for inner corners. The same range of treatments also appears in interiors.

Still more common is the use of the pilasterGlossary Term, that is a columnGlossary Term represented in relief. Sometimes they are made to overlap with each other, or with engaged columns.

Antae are a variant seen in Greek architecture, with straight sides and a very simple capitalGlossary Term; free-standing columns set between antae or pilasters are said to be in antisGlossary Term.

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Royal Institution
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St Bartholomew's Hospital, Gatehouse
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Belsay Hall



Formalized lintel, the lowest member of the entablature in classical architecture. Also the moulded frame of a door or window (often borrowing the profile of a classical architrave). Lugged: a moulded frame with horizontal projections at the top. Shouldered: similar, but with vertical projections in addition.


Moulded foot of a column or pilaster. An Attic base is the form used on an Ionic column, with two large convex rings joined by a spreading convex moulding.


Head or crowning feature of a column or pilaster.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.


The precinct of a cathedral. Also (Scots) a courtyard or passage giving access to a number of buildings.


Range of columns supporting an entablature, without arches. Compare arcade.


An upright structural member, especially in the classical styles, of round section and with a shaft, a capital, and usually a base.


One of the orders of classical architecture in which the capital of the column combines the volutes of the Ionic order with the foliage of the Corinthian.


Flat-topped ledge with moulded underside, projecting along the top of a building or feature, especially as the highest member of the classical entablature. Also the decorative moulding in the angle between wall and ceiling. An eaves cornice overhangs the edge of a roof.


A distinctive phase of English Gothic which developed at the end of the 13th century and continued into the later 14th; sometimes abbreviated to Dec. Named from its elaborate window tracery, which abandoned the simple circular forms of Geometric in favour of more varied patterns based on segments of circles. Dec tracery makes much use of ogee or reversed curves, which were combined in the 14th century to produce reticulated and flowing tracery composed of trefoils, quatrefoils and dagger shapes. Similar inventiveness is seen in the patterns produced by the lierne and tierceron vaults of the period, in the three-dimensional handling of wall surfaces broken up by canopy work and sculpture and in imaginative spatial planning making use of diagonal axes.


In classical architecture, collective name for the three horizontal members (architrave, frieze and cornice) carried by a wall.


The middle member of the classical entablature, sometimes ornamented. Pulvinated frieze (lit. cushioned): of bold convex profile. Also a horizontal band of ornament.

In antis

Of classical columns, set between pilasters or square columns of equal height, often within a portico.


The differently formalized versions of the basic post-and-lintel (column and entablature) system in classical architecture. The main orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. They are Greek in origin but occur in Roman versions. Tuscan is a simple variant of Roman Doric. The Composite capital combines Ionic volutes with Corinthian foliage. Though each order has its own conventions of design and proportion, there are many minor variations. Superimposed orders: orders on successive levels, customarily in the upward sequence of Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite.


Flat representation of a classical column in shallow relief. A pilaster respond is set at the end of a colonnade, arcade etc. to balance visually the column which it faces. A pilaster strip is a pilaster without base or capital (also called a lesene).


Two-dimensional representation of a building, moulding etc., revealed by cutting across it.


Pedestal or pilaster tapering downward, usually with the upper part of a human figure growing out of it; sometimes called a terminal figure.