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Photo Guide to Column Types and Styles


The columns that hold up your porch roof may look simple, but their history is long and complicated. Some columns trace their roots to the Classical Orders of Architecture. Others find inspiration in Moorish or Asian building traditions. The importance of the column to architecture has been described throughout the ages by scholars such as Marc-Antoine Laugier and his idea of The Primitive Hut. Browse this illustrated guide to find column types, column styles, and column designs through the centuries.

Doric Column

Doric Column
Photo © Roman Shcherbakov / iStockPhoto

With a plain capital and a fluted shaft, Doric is the earliest and most simple of the Classical column styles developed in ancient Greece. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC is a good example of how Doric columns can create a symbolic memorial to a fallen leader.

Ionic Column

Ionic Column
Photo © PhotographerOlympus / iStockPhoto

More slender and more ornate than the earlier Doric style, an Ionic column has scroll-shaped ornaments on the capital, or top. The Ionic columns of The Jefferson Memorial create a grand and Classical entrance to the dome.

Corinthian Column

Corinthian Column
Photo © PhotographerOlympus / iStockPhoto

The Corinthian style is more complex and elaborate than the earlier Doric and Ionic styles. The capital, or top, of a Corinthian column has lavish ornaments carved to resemble leaves and flowers. The columns on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Building in New York City create a might Corinthian Colonnade.

Tuscan Column

Tuscan Column
Photo © morrismedia / iStockPhoto

Developed in ancient Italy, a Tuscan column resembles a Greek Doric column, but it has a smooth shaft. Because of their simplicity, Tuscan columns can be found on many 20th century homes and as additions to the facade of other structures, such as in the Pedralbes Palau Reial in Spain.

Composite Column

Capital of a Composite Column
18th century French engraving

In about the first century BC, the Romans combined the Ionic and the Corinthian orders of architecture to create a composite style.

Solomonic Column

Solomonic columns at the Basilica of St. Paul cloister
Photo © Massimo Merlini / iStockphoto

Solomonic columns with twisted, spiraling shafts have ornamented buildings since ancient times. Over the centuries, many cultures have adopted the Solomonic column style.

Egyptian Column

Temple of Horus at Edfu
Photo © Jan Rihak / iStockphoto

Brightly painted and elaborately carved, columns in ancient Egypt often mimicked palms, papyrus plants, and other plant forms. Nearly 2,000 years later, architects in Europe and the United States borrowed Egyptian motifs and Egyptian column styles.

Persian Column

Stone column with bull carving, Hall of a Hundred Columns at Persepolis
Photo by Luis Argerich, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

During the fifth century BC, builders in the land that is now Iran carved elaborate columns with images of bulls and horses. The unique Persian column style was imitated and adapted in many parts of the world.

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