are ancient styles of classical or Neoclassical building design
distinguished by the type of column and entablature (architrave, frieze
and cornice) used. There are five recognized orders: Doric,
Ionic and Corinthian are Greek; Tuscan and
Composite are Roman.
A column is divided into a shaft, its base and its capital. In classical
buildings the upper horizontal part is called an entablature.
This entablature is supported by the column. The entablature is commonly
divided into the architrave, the frieze and the cornice. To distinguish
between the different Classical orders, the capital is used as the most
A complete column and entablature consist of a number of distinct parts.
At the bottom there is the stylobate. The stylobate is a flat
pavement on which the columns are placed. Out of the stylobate comes the
plinth. The plinth is a square block – sometimes circular – which
forms the lowest part of the base. Further up comes the remainder of the
base: one or many circular moldings with profiles. Common examples are
Torus, the Scotia, fillets or bands. The Torus is a
semi-circular convex molding, while the Scotia has a concave profile.
On top of the base, the shaft is placed. The shaft is
cylindrical in shape and both long and narrow. It is placed vertically
atop the base. The shaft sometimes decorated with fluting.
Fluting are vertical grooves. Sometimes the shaft is wider at the bottom
than at the top.
capital comes on top of the shaft. The function of the capital is to
concentrate the weight of the entablature onto the shaft, but it also
serves an aesthetic purpose. The simplest form of the capital is the
Doric, consisting of three parts. The necking is the
continuation of the shaft, but is visually separated by one or many
echinus lies atop the necking. It is a circular block that bulges
outwards towards the top. This is so in order to support the abacus.
The abacus is the third part of a Doric capital. It is a square block
that supports the entablature which lies above.
The entablature consists of three horizontal layers, all of which are
visually separated from each other using moldings or bands. The three
layers of the entablature have distinct names: the architrave
comes at the bottom, the frieze is in the middle and the
cornice lies on the top.
Columns are measured in a ratio. The ratio is the diameter of the shaft
at its base compared to the height of the column. As a result, a column
can be described as seven diameters high. Sometimes this is given as
seven lower diameters high, in order to make sure which part of the
shaft has been measured.
There are two distinct orders in ancient Greek architecture: Doric and
Ionic. These two were adopted by the Romans, as was the Corinthian
order. The Corinthian capital, however, was modified by the Romans. The
adoption of the Greek orders took place in the 1st century BC. The three
ancient Greek orders have since been used in Western architecture, both
ancient and modern.
The origin of the Doric and the Ionic order is not different in time.
Whilst the Doric order appeared on the shores of the Aegean Sea, the
Doric order appeared on the Greek mainland. The Phoenician and Egyptian
adapted the Ionic capital. Sometimes the Doric order is mistakenly
considered as the earlier order.
Both the Doric and the Ionic order have existed before in wood. The
temple of Hera in Olympia is the oldest well-preserved temple of Doric
architecture. It was built just after 600 BC. The Doric order later
spread across Greece and into Sicily where it was the chief order for
monumental architecture for 800 years.
The Doric order originated on the mainland and western Greece. It is the
simplest of the orders, characterized by short, faceted, heavy columns
with plain, round capitals (tops) and no base. With only four to eight
diameters in height, the columns are the most squat of all orders. The
shaft of the Doric order is channeled with 20 flutes. The capital
consists of a necking which is of a simple form. The echinus is convex
and the abacus is square.
Above the capital is a square abacus connecting the capital to the
entablature. The Entablature is divided into two horizontal registers,
the lower part of which is either smooth or divided by horizontal lines.
The upper half is distinctive for the Doric order. The frieze of the
Doric entablature is divided into triglyphs and metopes. A trilyph is a
unit consisting of three vertical bands which are separated by grooves.
Metopes are plain or carved relief's.
The Greek forms of the Doric order come without an individual base. The
instead are placed directly on the stylobate. Later forms, however, came
with the conventional base consisting of a plinth and a torus. The Roman
versions of the Doric order have smaller proportions. As a result the
appear lighter than the Greek orders.
The Ionic order came from eastern Greece. It is distinguished by
slender, decorative fluted pillars with a large base and two opposed
volutes (also called
scrolls) in the echinus of the capital. The echinus itself is
decorated with an egg- and- dart motif. The Ionic shaft comes with four
more flutes than the Doric counterpart (totaling 24). The Ionic base has
two convex moldings called tori which are separated by a scotia.
The Ionic order is also marked by a entasis, a little bulge in the
columns. Columns of the ionic order is nine lower diameters. The shaft
itself is eight diameters high. The architrave of the entablature
commonly consists of three stepped bands (fasciae). The frieze
comes without the Doric
triglyph and metope. Thefrieze sometimes comes with a
continuous ornament such as carved figures.
The Corinthian order is the most decorative of the Greek orders,
characterized by slender fluted columns having an ornate capital
decorated with acanthus leaves. It is commonly regarded as the most
elegant of the five orders. The most distinct characteristics is the
striking capital. The capital of the Corinthian order is carved with two
rows of leaves and four scrolls.
The shaft of the Corinthian order has 24 lutes which are sharp- edged.
The column is commonly ten diameters high.
Designed by Callimachus, a Greek sculptor of the 5th century BC. The
oldest known building to be built according to the Corinthian order is
the monument of Lysicrates in Athens. It was built in 335 to 334 BC. The
Corinthian order was raised to rank by the writing s of the Roman writer
Vitruvius in the 1st century BC.
The Romans adapted all the Greek orders and also developed two orders of
their own, basically modification of Greek orders. The Romans also
invented the superimposed order. A superimposed order is when successive
stories of a building have different orders. The heaviest orders were at
the bottom, whilst the lightest came at the top. This means that the
Doric order was the order of the ground floor. The Ionic order was used
for the middle story, while the Corinthian or the Composite order was
used for the top story.
The Colossal order was invented by architects in the Renaissance. The
Colossal order is characterized by columns that extend the height of two
or more stories.
The Tuscan order has a very plain design, with a plain shaft, and a
simple capital, base, and frieze. It is a simplified adoption of the
Doric order by the Romans. The Tuscan order is characterized by an
un-fluted shaft and a capital that only consist of an echinus and an
abacus. In proportions it is similar to the Doric order, but overall it
is significantly plainer. The column is normally seven diameters high.
Compared to the other orders, the Tuscan order looks the most solid.
The Composite order is a mixed order, combining the volutes of the Ionic
with the leaves of the Corinthian order. Until the Renaissance it was
not ranked as a separate order. Instead it was considered as a late
Roman form of the Corinthian order. Decorative columns of the
Composite order are ten diameters high.
The writings of Vitruvius are the only architectural works by Greek or
Roman writers that survived the Middle Age. His handbook De
was written for Roman architects. It was rediscovered in the 15th century.
After this discovery Vitruvius was instantly hailed as the authority on
classical orders and architecture in general.
Architects of the Renaissance and the Baroque period in Italy based their
rules on Vitruvius' writings. What was added was rules for superimposing
the classical orders and the exact proportions of the orders down to the
most minute detail.
Later the rules of the Renaissance and the Baroque period were
disregarded and the original use of the orders was revived, often hailed
as the 'correct' use of the orders. Many architects, however, used the
Classical orders at their freedom.
In the 20th century the orders have often become ornaments and commonly
been regarded as superfluous in modernist architecture. Instead columns
of steel and reinforced concrete were used.
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