Columns – those architectural survivors. Their classical bearing has been largely unaffected over the millennia of successive fashions. They remain themselves.
Seeing them as I pass, touching them if I am able, I confess I am uplifted — as though, because they endure, ageless, I, too, am connected in time with antiquity, and with our continuing quest of Beauty? Spirituality? Justice? Wealth? Power?
“Hey, go around to the front,” we are told, and there we are likely to find them. Columns at the entrance; they invite and shelter us. They signify importance, make a statement, even though they might seem an unnecessary touch. But is it possible to look on them as just enormous decorations, constructed at great effort and cost? Or maybe just to ‘run’ around?
Classic architectural columns are found worldwide in their recognizable basic forms: Doric, with its straight no frills/no nonsense attitude from bottom to top, of whatever texture; Ionic, with its top scrollwork (is there a message?); and pretty Corinthian, offering a fountain of leaves, overflowing at the top.
Imposing as columns are, part of their architectural genius lies in their capacity to “lighten” the structure to which they are attached, to make even the most monolithic buildings, symbols of power – a courthouse, a state house, and “Old Main” on campus – seem more graceful and inviting. Follow their shadows in the sun’s sky flight, shifting light and dark, time before us, daily.
Extending grace, while inspiring awe, you expect to find them in majestic places. But, you know, I also enjoy columns in their other, less momentous uses: on a residential porch, on a backyard Gazebo; even those composed of vertical logs on a simple mountain cabin. Another way to beautify and to assert one family’s beloved home.
Columns: Another face of humanity’s self-expression through millennia, one more way to add our statement to the world in which we live.
Photos by Paul-Allan Lewis