Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Friday 19th August 2022

The Orders

ClassicalGlossary Term [1] columns generally belong to one of five main ordersGlossary Term [2]: the Doric [3], with its closeGlossary Term [4] cousin the Tuscan [5]; the Ionic [6]; the Corinthian [7], and the nearly related CompositeGlossary Term [8]. You will also see a number of variants, often used in conjunction with these main types.

classicalGlossary Term [9] ordersGlossary Term [10] 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 [11] at the top), and - usually - a distinctive baseGlossary Term [12].

entablatureGlossary Term [13], the termGlossary Term [14] 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 [15]. In the middle is the friezeGlossary Term [16], which may be decoratedGlossary Term [17] or sculpted. The top sectionGlossary Term [18], which projects furthest, is the corniceGlossary Term [19] (a termGlossary Term [20] sometimes used loosely for the whole entablatureGlossary Term [21]). 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 [22].

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 [23], that is a columnGlossary Term [24] 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 [25]; free-standing columns set between antae or pilasters are said to be in antisGlossary Term [26].

Royal Institution
St Bartholomew's Hospital, Gatehouse
Belsay Hall

Last updated: Saturday, 25th April 2009