The Evolution of the Pillar

Sir George Trevelyan has some interesting insights into Architecture in his little book ‘The Seeing Eye in Architecture’. The column, he tells us, begins life as part of the wall. Eventually it becomes a pilaster, a section of the wall that stands out from the rest of the wall.

Pilasters awakening from the wall

It still has the characteristic square shape of the rest of the wall which it serves as a buttress.

A rank steps forward.

In time it detaches itself from the wall and stands freely holding up the roof.

Independent minded Pilasters

At this stage it may begin to develop the curlicues which determine whether it is a Doric, Ionic or a Corinthian, pillar according to the proportions and embellishment at its head.

Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian crowns

As it evolves so the pilaster loses its square edges and, while retaining the square and cube characteristic in the plinth on which it stands, it loses that feature in the stem and becomes rounded.

Rounded pilasters – still part of the wall.

It stands then as a fully rounded form with its decorated summit as an independent feature of one of those orders.

Avenue of Doric Columns

In the final stage of its development the column may become fluted with commonly 24 scallops or flutings around its body.

Lastly through modification to the plinth it stands upon a sphere which may be raised on the plinth or form the plinth itself.

Michelangelo’s David

In time the column may even develop into, or support, the sculpture of a heroic figure or a God.

Eros, Piccadilly Circus, London. A pillar with a mind of its own.