Columns are Vertical Support Structures for a Building
course, they also serve a decorative purpose. A column typically has three
parts: the base (the bottom), the shaft (the middle), and the capital (the top).
The shaft of a column can be fluted or plain, as you'll see in the various
column styles outlined here. A pilaster projects from a wall and resembles a
column, but is strictly decorative and not structural
There are five basic column styles for
single-family homes, derived from ancient Greek architecture.
The Doric column is the oldest and simplest Greek style--its found on the Parthenon in Athens. This column features fluted sides, a smooth rounded top, or capital, and no separate base.
Ionic columns have a capital with two spirals, called volutes, and relatively
slender shafts. The Ionic Order of architecture was seen during both ancient
Greek and Roman civilizations though in Greek architecture the shafts are more
likely to be fluted and in Roman architecture they are more likely to be plain.
Corinthian columns are the latest of the three Greek styles and show the influence of Egyptian columns in their capitals, which are shaped like inverted bells. Capitals are also decorated with olive, laurel, or acanthus leaves. Corinthian columns rest on a base similar to that of the Ionic style.
In modern times, features of the three styles were mixed. Greek-influenced columns are frequently found in Greek Revival, Neoclassic, and Southern Colonial homes. Later Neoclassic versions (beginning in late 1800s and early 1900s) of these columns were often thinner and didn't have fluting.
Although Greek-influenced columns are by the far the most widely used in modern architecture, other column styles also occur.
Egyptian columns are thought to be modeled after the shape of the lotus flower indigenous to the Nile. These columns taper out at the top and are often ornamented with palm-like leaves near the capital. Other features include horizontal rings about one-quarter and three-quarters of the way up the shaft. Variations on these columns appeared in Egyptian Revival homes built during the mid-1800s.
Romanesque columns were used by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the mid-1800s to support the massive Roman arches in his Romanesque Revival homes. These squat, square columns often rest on massive, trapezoid-shaped bases, or piers, and often have floral or other decorations on their capitals. Simpler pier columns, often with wider bottoms than tops, are also common in Mission and