The column has been a great point of architectural interest amongst scholars for millennia. Most architectural plaster columns that you will see in buildings today trace their roots back to either the Five Classical Orders of Architecture or take inspiration from Moorish or Asian building traditions.
Developed in the western Dorian region of Greece in about the 6th century BC and very much a defining feature in today’s Neoclassical-style buildings, the Doric column represents the simplest of the five orders of classical architecture. Ancient Greek builders gradually developed these orders (rules) for the design and proportion of buildings and their features, the columns generally being very indicative of each style. Thus it follows that a Doric column has a plain and simple aesthetic compared to the later Ionic and Corinthian column styles, with no ornaments or carvings and smooth, round capitals. Doric columns are also typically thicker and heavier than Ionic or Corinthian columns, leading them to sometimes be associated with strength and masculinity. Ancient builders often used Doric columns for the lowest level of multi-story buildings as they could bear the most weight, reserving the thinner, more slight columns for upper levels.
Also one of the Five Classical Orders of Architecture, Ionic is one of three column styles builders used in ancient Greece. More slender and more ornate than the earlier Doric style, an Ionic column has scroll-shaped ornaments on the capital, at the top of the usually-fluted column shaft. The Ionic column has a defining pair of scroll-shaped ornaments (volutes) which decorate the capital, with egg-and-dart designs often featuring between the volutes. Traditionally, Ionic columns stand on a base of stacked disks and the shaft can be flared at the top as well as the bottom.
Tuscan is one of the oldest and simplest architectural forms from ancient Italy. The Tuscan column, like the earlier Doric style, is plain in design without carvings or ornaments. It too represents one of the Five Orders of Classical Architecture and also like the Doric is a defining detail of today’s Neoclassical-style building. The shaft is plain (not fluted), set on a simple base and typically slender, with similar proportions to a Greek Ionic column.
An ornate column style developed in ancient Greece and again set down in the Five Classical Orders for Architecture, the Corinthian style is more intricate and elaborately detailed than the earlier Ionic and Doric styles. The capital part of a Corinthian column has lavish ornamentation which is carved to resemble leaves and flowers. The Corinthian, wrote Vitruvius (c. 70-15 BC), “is an imitation of the slenderness of a maiden; for the outlines and limbs of maidens, being more slender on account of their tender years, admit of prettier effects in the way of adornment.”. The shaft of the Corinthian column is fluted and the aforementioned capital Ornaments typically flare outwards, giving a palpable sense of height.
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