Of the three columns found in Greece, Doric columns are the simplest. They have a capital (the top, or crown) made of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has 20 sides. There is no base in the Doric order. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design. Doric, like most Greek styles, works well horizontally on buildings, that's why it was
so good with the long rectangular buildings made by the Greeks. The area
above the column, called the frieze [pronounced "freeze"], had simple patterns. Above the columns are the metopes and triglyphs. The metope [pronounced "met-o-pee"] is a plain, smooth stone section
between triglyphs. Sometimes the metopes had statues of heroes or gods on them. The triglyphs are a pattern of 3 vertical
lines between the metopes.
There are many examples of ancient Doric buildings. Perhaps the most famous one is the Parthenon in Athens, which is probably the most famous and most studied building on Earth. Buildings built even now borrow some parts of the Doric order.
The Hephaisteion, in Athens, is another good example of the Doric order. In this picture, you can clearly see the parts of the Doric order described above and shown in the illustration to the left.
This building is the Carnegie Library on the the campus of Johnson C. Smith Universiry in West Charlotte. The front entry has a Doric cornice and columns with Doric capitals. Along the entire building is a frieze with triglyphs and metopes. Designs like this, which are inspired by ancient buildings, are know as neoclassical.
Ionic shafts were taller than Doric ones. This makes the columns look slender. They also had flutes, which are lines carved into them from top to bottom. The shafts also had a special characteristic: entasis, which is a little bulge in the columns make the columns
look straight, even at a distance [because since you would see the building from eye level, the shafts would appear to get narrower as they rise, so this bulge makes up for that - so it looks straight to your eye but it really isn't !] . The frieze is plain. The bases were large and looked
like a set of stacked rings. Ionic capitals consist of a scrolls above the shaft. The Ionic style is a little more decorative than the Doric.
The Temple of Athena Nike in Athens, shown above, is one of the most famous Ionic buildings in the world. It is located on the Acropolis, very close to the Parthenon (shown in the Doric section above).
The Little Rock AME Zion Church in downtown Charlotte is a good example showing Ionic columns. It was built in 1911 and designed by J. M. McMichael. Mr. McMichael did not like steeples, so the church has instead two cupolas [the short towers you see] on the top, one on the left and one on the right.
The Corinthian order is the most decorative and is usually the one most modern people like best. Corinthian also uses entasis to make the shafts look straight. The Corinthian capitals have
flowers and leaves below a small scroll. The shaft has flutes and the base is like the
Ionian. Unlike the Doric and Ionian cornices, which are at a slant, the
Corinthian roofs are flat.
The Temple of the Sybil in Rome is a good example of the Corinthian order. The Romans used the Corinthian order much more than did the Greeks.
This building is the Charlotte City Hall.
City Hall has pairs of Corinthian columns and the typical flat Corinthian roof. The coumns have entasis. If you go see City Hall in person, the shafts will look straight to your eye, but they aren't!
Designs like this, which are inspired by ancient buildings, are know as neoclassical.
There are also two other types of classical orders, the Tuscan and the Composite. The Tuscan order is very plain, with a plain shaft, a simple capital and base, and a plain frieze. The Composite order is a combination of the Ionic and Corinthian orders.
This page was created and designed by Bruce R. Schulman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.