Any idea what kind of a column this is – apart from a large one, of course?
You may well know that it is The Monument, built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1671-8, just yards from Pudding Lane, to commemorate the Great Fire of London. Much familiar architecture in London looks a bit too complicated to even begin to understand, but the basics are not that tricky. I thought I would shine a light on a few of our architectural period features in the coming weeks – stay with me, it’s not difficult.
People in Britain got pretty excited when they came across Italian hillsides literally littered with old ruins when they went on holiday a few centuries ago. Some people were just interested in using them as backdrops in the equivalent of our holiday photos, the exotic portrait, but others got seriously hooked and tried to understand what they were. If you’ve been to Rome or Athens you’ll probably have felt a bit the same.
At first it wasn’t really clear what was what – what was Roman and what was stuff the Romans had picked up from the much older Greek civilisation. That was sorted out by a few trips to Greece and a look at some contemporary building manuals. Slowly things started to fall into place – by 1671, when Wren and his friend Hooke started to build their column, architects were familiar with Renaissance works on Architecture, explaining the systems used in the old days. The Greeks were first – they used 3 different styles of columns to hold up their roof structures – and they didn’t know about arches so they simply plonked beams across from column to column – remember the Parthenon?
The first style of column they used is the Doric – which is probably the easiest to spot. It’s defining features are:
that it’s generally fat, solid, slightly dumpy, fluted or not, with a very simple disc shaped capital (thing at the top) and nothing at the bottom at all – it sits directly on a block of stone.
Here it is being reproduced in fibreglass. When you see the Doric being used you know the architect is trying to say ‘this is a serious, dignified building’. look out for the dear old Greek Doric when you’re out and about.