Development of the Columns Through History Research Paper

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¶ … oif columns in architecture extends from the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks and Romans to its modern usage in both public and private constructions and building. The various forms and styles, such as the classical Doric and Ionic, have all contributed and added elements to the structural as well as the aesthetic aspects of architectural development,. What is clear from an overview of the history of columns is that the structural and functional aspects of columns cannot be completely separated from the aesthetic, cultural and religious aspects. This study provides a selective overview of the history of columns and their effect on contemporary architecture. Central as well to this discussion is the argument that the history of columns necessitates an understanding of the link between the religion-cultural context and the actual physical engineering and architectural needs.



1.1. Architectural columns

Architectural history and its influence

2. Aims of the research

3. Curriculum or Method of the Study

4. Review of the Literature

5. Comparative and Developmental Analysis

5.1. Overview of Historical Development

5.2. Egyptian Columns

5.3. Greek and Roman Columns

5.4. Doric and Ionic

5.5. Social and Cultural Perspectives

5.6. The Modern Use of Columns

6. Conclusions

7. Recommendations

7. References

1. Introduction

Throughout human history the construction of buildings and architectural designs have formed an important part of human expression and development. Architectural forms and elements have served to express many aspects of cultural and social life and the belief systems of a particular society, besides being purely elements of construction. For example, humankind has often used architectural elements such as columns for both social and structural purposes and to express cultural emotions and beliefs about the universe sand religion. Many commentators make the point that architectural forms are not only functional but that there is close and intimate connection between these forms and various social and cultural visions of reality and life.

With these views in mind, it is clear that in order to understand the value and significance of the column in the history of architecture one has of necessity to take into account both their functional and aesthetic or decorative qualities.

The following study will therefore attempt to provide a brief overview of rhe development of the column from the ancient and Classical period of human history to the modern era. Central to this research is the stance that functionality and aestheticism should be linked if this architectural fro, is to be fully understood.

1.1. Architectural columns

Purely in terms of its form and structure, a column can be defined as a "...vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces" (Column: New World Encyclopaedia). In this sense, and as architectural and engineering components in building, columns are elements that are often used to support beams or arches.

However, the column is not seen only in terms of its functionality. It is important to note that in an architectural and aesthetic terms, the column refers to"...a structural element that also has certain proportional and decorative features. A column might not support any major structure but be a decorative or triumphant feature with, for instance, a statue on top" (Column: New World Encyclopaedia). A more comprehensive definition of a column would therefore be as follows: "A column is an upright pillar or post. Columns may support a roof or a beam, or they can be purely decorative" (Craven).

In technical terms a columns has three central parts. These are the base, the shaft and the capital. The capital refers to the top of the column, which may be simply or elaborately decorated ( Craven).

Figure1. Parts of a column

( Source:

Architectural columns are common to numerous architectural designs and forms, which and evident today in many buildings, such as churches and hotels. One of the reasons for the popularity of this architectural form is its aesthetic value. As one study notes, "…these elements bestow beauty, elegance, and an appearance of strength wherever they are found" ( Davis). Some of the more well -- known columns in history include the following;

Alexander Column

Pillars of Ashoka

Berlin victory column

Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc

Iron pillar of Delhi

Monument to the Great Fire of London

Nelson's Column

Rostral Columns

Sigismund's Column

Trajan's Column

(Column: New World Encyclopaedia).

Columns also have an obvious and important functional value in terms of architectural construction. Both these elements, the aesthetic and the functional, extend back into ancient history. How columns originated, their history and how this ancient structural form compares to present-day columns will from a central trajectory of this research.

1.2. Architectural history and its influence

Very briefly, the historical origins of the column in architecture can be traced back as far as 2600 BC in ancient Egypt ( Barry). For example we reads that, "… ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep, is said to have used stone columns to reflect the form of bundled reeds" ( Barry). What is clear from the literature is that architects in various cultures have made use of these earlier forms and applications of the columnar from and modified them to suit their needs -- resulting in a variety of forms and styles of the column throughout history. Consequently, ".... Columns are still frequently used today as structural members or decorative features" ( Barry).

Therefore, one of the most significant aspects of a study of the history of columns in architecture is the fact that even though they have ancient origins they are still extremely influential in both design and functionality today. This fact is central to the present research and is emphasized by the following quotation.

Today, almost two point five millennia after the completion of the most perfect Greek column structure, the Parthenon sitting on top of the Acropolis, with its mighty architectural columns, is one particular element of classical architecture that continues to influence many ordinary structures and office buildings into impressive monuments... (the History of Traditional Columns and the Architectural Column).

An example of the previous influence and development of the column can be seen in the architecture of the Roman Empire. Here we find the utilization of both columns and high arches that were used to create ornate and essentially pleasing structures that were also functional in a social, cultural and governmental sense. This included buildings that housed the offices of Roman government, as well as house of private residences. In terms of the development of the column, these ancient models and principles have been copied and adapted in modern architecture. As one pundit notes; "Roman architecture was the predicate for those architectural principles that modern architecture relies upon to this very day" (the History of Traditional Columns and the Architectural Column).

Another aspect that should be considered in terms of the issue of the purpose and meaning of the column in history is the social and religious context that surrounds the column in ancient culture. This is an aspect that cannot be ignored if one is to understand fully the significance of this architectural form. This also refers to and affects the aesthetic significance of the column and refers specifically to links between architectural design, culture and religion. In other words, many of the architectural principles that influenced and informed the column were in fact partly determined by religious and social concerns. One study on this subject illustrates this point as follows:

Importantly, the architectural principles that we find in these cultured also show evidence of the link between architecture and religious themes and principles that dominated the cultures; for example the ancient Egyptian temples that were structured according to specific astronomical measurements and directions

(the History of Traditional Columns and the Architectural Column).

This cardinal aspect will be explored in the following sections.

2. Aims of the Research

The central aims of this research can be expressed as follows: to discuss and describe the function and the impact of columns, both structurally and aesthetically, from the origins of this structural form to the present day. This encompasses a wide area of discourse and analysis. Therefore these general aims and objectives have to be selectively targeted towards certain central areas and concerns.

The following discussion will therefore explore the historical origins of the column in Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as some of the central changes and developments in the evolution of this architectural form, from both an engineering, functional, aesthetic and social perspective. Therefore the idea of the column as an artistic object of aesthetic beauty as well as being a structural and social object will form an important part of the trajectory of the present research. In order to understand the impact that the historical origins of the column have had on modern architecture it is important to understand these origins as comprehensively as possible; taking into account the various factors and influences that 'shaped' these architectural influences.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Development of the Columns Through History.  (2011, March 10).  Retrieved December 14, 2019, from

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"Development of the Columns Through History."  10 March 2011.  Web.  14 December 2019. <>.

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"Development of the Columns Through History."  March 10, 2011.  Accessed December 14, 2019.