Columns are solid, often cylindrical structures that support the roof and the walls of buildings. Humans have been using columns in buildings since we first started constructing shelters out of materials other than clay and dirt.
Columns are functional but also serve an aesthetic purpose. Though the overall shape and function of the column has changed little as the years flew by, their external designs have changed considerably. For example, companies like Contour provide modern column casings with simple designs, but made of robust materials like brushed aluminium and stainless steel.
Columns in the past tended to be much more intricate in contrast with the minimalism preferred in modern buildings.
Though columns have been around since the Bronze Age in 3,000 to 1,000 BCE, beautiful, sophisticated columns began appearing when major civilisations began taking root. The Ancient Egyptians, Minoans and Assyrian civilisations began constructing large buildings supported by wooden columns.
The Minoans in particular had impressive wood columns made of whole tree trunks that feature a simple, rounded capital, or topper. They were painted in bright, natural paints.
Around 800 BCE, the first solid stone columns began appearing. They slowly began replacing wood as the preferred material for columns because of their strength and durability. The Ancient Greeks and Romans employed elaborately designed columns in their temples and palaces.
The Architectural Orders
Anyone who has taken a little bit of world history will likely be familiar with the architectural orders. The basic column designs that were widely used throughout Greece and Rome include:
- Doric — Doric pillars were wider at the bottom and featured simple capitals and bases with smooth edges.
- Ionic — Ionic pillars stand on a base and feature capitals with curved scrolls.
- Corinthian — Corinthian pillars appeared later on, and represent the pinnacle of Roman column designs. They are taller and thinner than both Doric and Ionic pillars, and feature delicately carved plants and floral designs on the capital.
We still use these designs today, though modern columns are significantly simpler than the ones built by the ancients. Columns will likely continue to be an important architectural feature in the future.