Columns In Time: Architectural pillars of beautyPosted by in Interior Garden
Columns have not only offered structural support for buildings since ancient times, they have provided grace and embellishment to architecture. In fact, the very presence of columns on buildings has defined styles of architecture, as we know it today. Many grand historical monuments are distinguished and noteworthy because of their interesting column presentations. Today, we look to columns as not so much a supporting structure but as that final brush stroke transforming the facade of a home into an artful form.
The raw, massive simplicity of the pillars used at Stonehenge in England ( 2900-1400 B.C.) have fascinated historians for generations. Not only were these pillars of time used for ceremonies they were also used to track the heavens in their celestial paths. Although they seemed to have served no structural purpose, they offered a very early primitive yet highly sophisticated pattern of design. Even today we find reproductions of these monolithic stones strategically placed in large outdoor settings.
The Egyptians were the first known to use single, large blocks of stone to carve various style columns for the support and adornment of their pyramids. The Egyptianís fluted column, it is believed, represents the first true column made from stone in the world. Variations on the fluted columns have remained in architecture since the Egyptian period. Although the shaft of the columns remained fluted the column capitals became more evolved and decorative.
The influence of plant life echoed in the Egyptians column designs. For example, he Paliform column, representing palm trees, was one of the first styles of columns found in the Egyptian temple architecture. Many variations of bundled reeds and budding plants were used to create symbolic capitals for the Egyptianís fluted columns. These columns however, though intricate and ornate, were not just used for decoration. Egyptian columns were used as structural support for their pyramids.
In the 1920ís the world saw a fascination with Egyptian design. Papyriform columns emerged in the Art Deco period with stylized reed plants and palms reflected into the design of columns.
Probably the most remarkable period of columns arrived during the Greek and Roman period in history. Buildings like the Acropolis (Athens, 479 B.C.), the Temple of Hera at Paesturn ( 550 B.C.) and the largest and most famous temple, the Parthenon ( 448-432 B.C.) set the stage for column designs that would be imitated for thousands of years. What more impressive a display of columns, structural or not, is the Parthenonís great temple to Athena patron goddess of Athens. This Doric temple is eight columns wide and seventeen columns deep. Itís sheer mass is overwhelming, much less the ingenious ìtrick of the eyeî design created by its architects. The minute adjustments of the horizontal vertical lines of the columns create a convex shape making the columns incline imperceptibly away from the viewer.
Contemporaneous with Greek innovation, the Romans marched ahead with grand structures such as the Triumphal Arch (Pompeii, 79 B.C.) the Colosseum (Rome, 80 B.C.) and the greatest circular-plan Roman temple ever mastered, the Pantheon (Rome 118-28 C.E.). The Pantheon with its twenty Corinthian columns is considered the most influential building in Western architectural history. The massive columns of this breathtaking temple have inspired architects since it was completed.
To better understand the evolution of the use of columns in architecture and its influence on modern day design, one should review the anatomy of column elements.
There were five types of classical columns used by the Greeks and Romans. Although these were structural, the design of the columns was clearly ornamental. The earliest columns design was the Doric column, which dates back to 600 B.C. Doric column design, was followed by Ionic, Corinthian, Composite and then the Tuscan column of the 16th century.
The Greeks preferred the Doric and Ionic style columns while the Romans chose the more ornate styles of the Corinthian and the composite style columns. The oldest and simplest of the designs was the Doric style. A strong shaft and a wider bottom mark it. It is almost always seen in a fluted design. The Ionic columns usually have a fluted shaft and a scrolled capital. The Corinthian style is considered more feminine in design with its elaborately carved capital. The composite column is a combination of both the Ionic and the Corinthian designed capitals incorporating both Corinthian scroll-like elements with the addition of an acanthus leaf relief.
Another variation on these column designs is the Solomonic design that emerged during the Baroque period in Europe. The Solominic columns have a dramatic swirl up its shaft. The Tuscan column is simple in design and has a plain base and capital. It is very similar to the Doric design without the base or capital. Examples of each one of these columns can be found in contemporary architecture today. A quick tour of homes down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans will unveil that each one of these styles of columns adorns the thresholds of many a faÁade.
To recognize the subtle distinction of these designs in modern day architecture there are certain elements to look far. First look at the capital of the column and observe if it is plain or decorative. If it is plain, than it is a Doric or Ionian column. If the shaft is slender it is probably an Ionic column and if the shaft is masculine and thick than it is probably a Doric design. The design of the capital will also distinguish if it is an Ionic or composite column. If the capital has a scroll than it is most probably Ionic and if it has elaborate detail like many of the Greek Revival New Orleans homes, then it is a composite column.
There are many different mediums that columns are made of today. Carved marble and limestone are the most magnificent and costly material for columns. Contemporary homebuilders are opting for the less expensive and yet equally beautiful columns made from cast stone and cast composite marble. The treatment of these castings has become such an art form that the cast stone columns final appearance mimics closely its carved stone inspiration.
Brick and mortar are also used to produce columns that are than covered with plaster. This is a much more time consuming process that was frequently used in the plantation style columns built in the 1800ís. Many companies who use white plaster with a natural fabric back providing strength and support for the column can now achieve this same look.
Concert products are extremely durable and are an ideal choice for a low cost solution for interior and exterior design elements. The concert columns are usually 140 pounds per cubic foot and are a substantial reinforcement to a home design. Wonderful colors imitating natural stone can be created with concert by using iron oxide pigments mixed into the concert when it is being poured.
A lightweight yet high strength column made of glass fiber with reinforced concrete is a popular solution for indoor columns. The column is produced with a mixture of sand, cement, alkali resistant fiber and an acrylic polymer-curing agent. The end result is a column that weighs almost 80% lighter than its concert counterpart. These types of columns are ideal for interior or exterior areas that have limited access or weight considerations such as condos or second floor settings. The final result is a column with a smooth finish and a natural stone appearance.
Columns can be carved as a whole piece or in sections. Obviously the whole column will have no line marks from the mortaring process however it will be much heavier and cumbersome to install. The sectional carved columns are easier to deal with and can be lightly and skillfully motored together reducing the appearance of lines in its seams.
Columns can also be purchased as half columns and used as accents for thresholds and boarder details. These can also be paired to create the illusion of a whole column.
Specialty hardware supplier also provides columns made of foam. These types of columns are very inexpensive and are used strictly for design purposes and not structural support. The cost in installing foam columns is not so much in the cost of the column but in the finishing process. These, typically, look best when finished with a plastering process. Depending on the mason, this could cost as much or more than the column.
The shaft shape of a column is as much a consideration in selecting a column as the design of the column. Shafts can be straight or tapered or swirled.
Tapered shafts are typically a few inches smaller at the top of the shaft than at the bottom of the shaft. For example when ordering a 10 inch tapered shaft one would require the top of the shaft to be 8 inches tapering down to a 10 inch shaft at the bottom of the column. This design also creates an illusion making the column seem taller and of course more graceful.
In selecting a column for your home one must first be true to the architectural style of the house. Consider the period design that your home reflects and then match the columns accordingly. The first step is to then select the base of the column than the size and design of the shaft (fluted, smooth, square, round, tapered or non-tapered) and then to select the height and diameter of the column.
Most companies that specialize in columns can assist you in making these decisions. Typically companies provide the client with a work order that allows the client to choose from a variety of these elements. The most popular style today that goes with most architecture is the Tuscany style shaped column. It is a classic design with very little detail and compliments almost any setting.
Columns can now be purchased from many online companies however the shipping costs are high. Consider using one of the many fine concert-casting companies that are available in Louisiana for your column selection. Columns can make a plain home seem grand and a small garden seem magical. The shadows that are cast when sunlight crosses a pathway of columns create beauty and intrigue evoking many historical references.
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