1. Home
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

What Is a Column?


Columns and Doors of the US Supreme Court Building

Architect Cass Gilbert used Corinthian columns when he designed the neoclassical Supreme Court Building in Washington DC

Photo © VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm, Getty Images

A column is an upright pillar or post. Columns may support a roof or a beam, or they can be purely decorative.

Column Structure:
A column has three main parts.

  1. The base. Most columns rest on a round or square base.
  2. The shaft. The main part of the column, the shaft, may be smooth, fluted (grooved), or carved with designs.
  3. The capital. The top of the column may be simple or elaborately decorated.
The capital of the column supports the upper portion of a building, called the entablature.

Classical Columns:
Classical columns are built according to the Classical Orders of Architecture as recorded in the late 1500's by the Italian Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola. The classical column designs are:

  1. Doric
  2. Ionic
  3. Corinthian
  4. Tuscan
  5. Composite
Other Column Styles:
Over the centuries, a variety of column types and column designs evolved in other parts of the world. To see different styles of columns, browse our Photo Guide to Column Design and Column Types.
Also Known As: pillar, support, pilaster, post, stake, pole, pier, buttress, underpinning
Common Misspellings: colum, culom, collum, collem

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.