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