Columns Ancient and Modern


Columns as a decorative architectural feature on buildings were used extensively in ancient times on important buildings. Three major systems in architectural design used by ancient Greeks have stood the test of time and are still seen in architecture to this day. These include the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles. Each order has its own definitive characteristics, however they can also be easily confused to the untrained eye.

The most famous Greek system used around the world today is the first order, the Doric style of architecture (pictured above) You will see Doric columns when you visit the Parthenon and Acropolis, distinguished by vertical columns and a plain roof. You will also see this style in historic buildings in southern Italy and Sicily; it is one of the oldest architectural orders that exists today.

The second style is the Ionic order. It is more delicate, intricate, and elegant than Doric architecture. Having originated in eastern Greece, Ionic structures are believed to have become dominant during the Hellenistic period.


Then there’s the Corinthian style of architecture. Corinthian architecture is intended to be an altered version of the Ionic style with much more detail. Here you’ll see more scrolls , fruit and flower motifs and flourishes.


These days, in modern Australian architecture we see columns used extensively in housing design.  With the advent of concrete and now lightweight eps building materials it is possible for builders to create columns for suburban homes.  The addition of columns, usually at the entrance of the home, creates a grand, sophisticated façade. The Finishing Touch have a range of lightweight mouldings for columns, both round, tapered and square with capitals in all the styles, along with bases.



Columns Add History And Beauty To Modern Design

Columns were originally wooden and one central column would be used for structural support in small buildings. The Egyptian and Assyrian civilizations used more sophisticated columns in stone whilst the Minoans used whole tree trunks, turned upside down to prevent regrowth, on a base, topped by a round capital and painted.  They used columns to create large open plan spaces and also as a focal point for religious rituals.

Columns evolved in the ancient world within architectural orders developed by Greek civilization, these principal orders are:

Doric –

Wider at the bottom with a simple capital, but no base.

Ionic  –

Stand on a base and have a capital in the form of a double scroll.

Corinthian  –

Slimmer and taller, stand on a base and have a richly decorated capital, usually with sculpted flower and leaf decoration.

All three have vertical fluted carving.

The Romans introduced different columns –

Tuscan –

No flutes and a simple base and capital.

Roman Doric –

Similar to Tuscan but with flutes.

Composite –

With mixed elements of the previous styles.

Solomonic –

With a twisted shaft.

Earlier civilizations had used columns in the most part for the purpose of holding up the roof inside a building, using the outside walls for decorations with reliefs or paintings. The Ancient Greeks and Romans, extended their use to the outside as well for decorative purposes. Buildings like the Parthenon are classical examples of this style of architecture.

The use of decorative mouldings as columns on modern buildings brings back these past glories to contemporary architecture. The finishing Touch have created a new lightweight range of mouldings, including columns, that add beauty and a link with the past in modern building design.