Looking at Buildings

Styles & Traditions


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St Pancras Church, Burial vaults
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London, Grindlay's Bank (former)

CaryatidsGlossary Term and AtlantesGlossary Term take a human or part-human form. In the Ancient World it was thought that columns symbolised the human figure, and human forms sometimes did duty for columns instead. CaryatidsGlossary Term are female figures, AtlantesGlossary Term are male. The males are usually shown as bearded and muscular, straining to hold up the entablatureGlossary Term, the females usually in repose.

Herms or terms are simpler versions with an upward-tapering shaftGlossary Term finished off with a human torso. All of these are more often used in relief rather than free-standing, for example on doorways or fireplaces.

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Seaton Delaval Hall

BlockedGlossary Term columns have shafts intersected by square stone blocks, as if not all the stones had yet been carved. The form goes back to RenaissanceGlossary Term Italy, where it began as a kind of sophisticated joke. It is used decoratively, and also at entrances as an expression of strength and security.

Many architects have tried to invent new ordersGlossary Term. One of the few to catch on was the version of DoricGlossary Term or TuscanGlossary Term designed by Salomon de Brosse, a 16th-century French architect, which has a straight-sided shaftGlossary Term with the separate stones emphasized by grooves.

Variants of the CorinthianGlossary Term with little sculpted figures in the capitalGlossary Term were common in the Ancient world, and sometimes appear on British buildings.

The English architect Amon Wilds (1762-1833) made much use of a capitalGlossary Term rather like the IonicGlossary Term, but with volutesGlossary Term shaped like fossil ammonites - a pun on his own name.

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Terraced houses
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London, Admiralty Arch



(lit. Atlas figures): Male figures supporting an entablature; their female counterparts are caryatids.


Interrupted by regular projecting blocks (blocking), as on a Gibbs surround.


Head or crowning feature of a column or pilaster.


Female figures supporting an entablature; their male counterparts are Atlantes.


The most slender and ornate of the three main classical orders. It has a basket-shaped capital ornamented with acanthus foliage.


The simplest and plainest of the three main classical orders, featuring a frieze with triglyphs and metopes. A Roman Doric column has a simple round capital with a narrow neck band and a plain or fluted shaft. A Greek Doric column has a thin spreading convex capital and no base to the column.


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


One of the orders of classical architecture, distinguished in particular by downward- and inward-curling spirals (called volutes) on the capital of the column.


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.


The revival of classical architecture that began in 15th-century Italy and spread through Western Europe and the Americas in the following two centuries, finding distinctive forms and interpretations in different states and regions. From c. 1830 the Italian version was revived in Britain as a style in its own right (sometimes called Neo-Renaissance or Italianate), i.e. as distinguished from the native Georgian classical tradition.


Vertical member of round or polygonal section, including the main part of a classical column, and by extension also of a pilaster.


One of the orders of classical architecture, a simpler variant of Roman Doric.


Spiral scrolls. They occur on Ionic capitals. Angle volute: a pair of volutes, turned outwards to meet at the corner of a capital.