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Orders of Architecture

Orders of Architecture

by R. A. Cordingley


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A complete reference to the classical orders of architecture, this magnificently illustrated volume covers the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance periods. In addition to its fully representative selection of works by Italian and French Renaissance architects, the collection features a fine series of measured drawings derived from still-extant monuments of Greek and Roman antiquity. Since the "Orders" created by the Renaissance builders were based upon the earlier structures, this book provides a means of critical comparison as well as an excellent perspective on the growth and significance of the architectural orders.
Eighty black-and-white plates by Augustus Pugin and other distinguished artists depict details of works by such architects as Vitruvius, Palladio, Vignola, Serlio, and Lescot. Featured Greek buildings include the Parthenon, the temples of Apollo and Jupiter, the Portico of Augustus, the Aqueduct of Hadrian, and others. More than twenty Roman structures include the Pantheon, the Colosseum and buildings in the adjacent forum, and the temples of Paestum.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486795744
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 05/20/2015
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 395,904
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

A professor at Manchester University, R. A. Cordingley pioneered the study of regional architecture, devising and perfecting its recording system.

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Orders of Architecture

By R. A. Cordingley

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-80346-3


Normande's Parallel of the Orders of Architecture is unusual in this class of publication in that it includes not only a fully representative selection of those standardised versions of the respective orders evolved by certain celebrated "modern" masters of Italian or French Renaissance architecture, but also a fine series of measured drawings derived from the actual monuments of Greek or Roman antiquity still surviving. As the "Orders" composed by the Renaissance writers were based on these very structures, we are consequently afforded a means of critical comparison as well as a wide opportunity for discrimination in the selection of proportions and details appealing to our individual taste. But we may only do justice to this excellent collection of drawings by an appreciation of the circumstances which attended the growth of the orders and a realisation of their underlying significance.


The story of the Orders begins in classical Greece. There, about the eighth century B.C., we find a "post and lintol" architecture, already artistically refined beyond essential structural needs, in process of translation from wood to stone. Though none of the ancient timber work has survived, almost every stone feature is recognisably derived from a wooden counterpart. It is an architecture of colonnades, in which regularly spaced columns support a deep horizontal "entablature", made up of a variety of members arranged in three main parts, known respectively as the "architrave", the "frieze", and, at the top, the "cornice" (Plate A). The columns have decorative capitals, and these serve as the principal means of distinguishing one order from another.

At the outset there were only two orders, the "Doric" and the "Ionic"; differing versions of the one architecture as produced by the two main branches of the Greek race. Most of the Dorians were settled in the Greek mainland or in Southern Italy and Sicily and the majority of the Ionians along the coasts of Asia-Minor. For the rest, their settlements intermingled. The Dorians practised a simple, direct style, of which the outstanding attribute is its virility (Plate 7). The milder, luxury-loving, Ionians produced a daintier, more decorative and varied style, indicative of their acquaintance and contacts with the near-Eastern civilizations (Plate 26).

Early Greek buildings mostly were temples, and colonnades of the Doric or Ionic orders served to give dignity to them (Plate 70). The temples were simple box-like structures, about twice as long as wide.

At the core was the "naos", a windowless chamber shielding the sacred image. A great door, or pair of doors, when open for the religious ceremonies at the altar outside, allowed the naos a dim diffused light. The colonnades surrounded the naos completely, at a distance sufficient to provide an ample passage-way behind, themselves supporting the margins of a gently-sloping tiled roof, which made shallow gables, known as "pediments", over the short ends of the building. The pediments comprised enframing horizontal and sloping cornices, and within each the central space, or "typanum", was decorated with sculpture.

The only other architectural element it is necessary here to mention is the "anta" (pl., antae), a reflection of the design of a column onto the end of a short spur wall, the plan of the anta consequently becoming rectangular rather than circular. The longer sides of the walls of the naos of the normal temple projected a little to form an inner porch, and it is at the end of such walls that the antae are invariably found (see plan of Parthenon, Plate 70). The anta capital is a series of mouldings in the case of the Doric order (Plates 5 and 6), as also in instances of the Ionic order in Athens (Plate 20), though the profiles are by no means exact replicas of those of the corresponding column capitals. The anta capital of Ionic Asia Minor is even less like the design of the attendant column capitals, having a face appearance not unlike that ancient musical instrument, the lyre.

Thus the colonnades were almost the whole sum of the architecture of the early Greeks, and the initial two orders were decorative alternatives in which it might be expressed. Yet each of the two orders, Doric and Ionic, had sprung from a structural system and, although their parts ultimately became decorative, had their origin in members essential to support or protection. After the translation from timber, Greek architecture merits the description of "a carpentry in marble". At first, the stone Doric order was extremely ponderous and squat in its proportions, but as knowledge of the capacities of stone developed, the order became progressively lighter and nearer to the proportions which it presumably had possessed before the conversion from timber. Apart from this consistent trend, the stone Doric order changed little in character from first to last. The columns of the temple of Poseidon (Neptune) at Paestum, built about 450 B.C. (Plate 8), are only four and a half times their own diameter in height, whilst those of the Parthenon (432 B.C., Plate 5) measure 5.48 times their own diameter.

In the case of the Ionic style the process of elongation of the proportions is by no means so marked, for the probable reason that, at first, only the columns were converted into stone, the entablature continuing for a while to be made in wood. Thus no extra burden of weight was thrown onto the columns and they could remain slender, like their timber forerunners. Again, whilst the Doric entablature regularly had the three main parts, architrave, frieze and cornice, the Ionic tradition in Asia Minor appears to have required only two, architrave and cornice. By the middle of the sixth century B.C. at the latest, the two-part entablature also had passed from timber to stone, as fragments from the "Archaic" temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus (c. 560 B.C.)—one of a sequence of temples upon the same site—survive to show. In Asia Minor the tradition of the two-part entablature was remarkably persistent and the type probably was universal there for the chief temples until the third century B.C. It chances that none of the Plates in the body of this book illustrate the original two-part form of the Ionic entablature. Plate 26 shows the temple of Minerva (Athena) Polias at Priene (c. 335 B.C.) as having a frieze, but this is now adjuged incorrect. The true original arrangement of the entablature is shown in Figure 2 a.

Though at all times slender, the tendency towards further elongation of the proportions of the stone Ionic order is sufficiently great to be remarked. The columns of the temple on the Ilissus (c. 448 B.C., Plate 20) are 8.25 diameters in height, whilst those of the North Porch of the Erechtheum (c. 421 B.C., Plate 22) are 9.50.

Entablatures of the two orders diminish appropriately in depth as the attendant columns become lighter. In early Doric temples the massive entablature is frequently half the height of the supporting columns, whilst later, as in the Parthenon, it is reduced to less than one-third. The entablature of the Ionic temple on the Ilissus is approximately one-quarter of the column height—considerably lighter, it will be noted, than the contemporary Doric—whilst at the Erechtheum the proportion has decreased to about one-fifth.

Despite the lightening of proportions, the Greek Doric order of classical times never became so slender as to require a base to the columns. The column shaft tapered upwards quite appreciably and in most examples there was at the same time a slight outward swelling of the profile, reaching a maximum at about one-third up the height, intended to counteract an optical illusion of hollowness which parallel or near-parallel lines seem readily to occasion. This corrective subtlety is known as "entasis". The shafts always are ornamented with vertical shallow "flutes", concave channellings which meet one another on a sharp edge or "arris". Twenty is the usual number. The column capital has only two simple main parts, an "abacus ", square on plan, supported by a rounded "echinus". In early examples the profile of the echinus is bulbous and widespreading; in later temples it makes a very subtle convex curve, thrusting outwards at about 45° from the line of the column.

The distinguishing features of the Doric entablature are the deep, plain architrave, the large "triglyph" blocks in the frieze, and a continuous series of shallow, wide "mutules" in the cornice, which from the fact of their sloping in sympathy with the incline of the roof, appear to represent the stone translation of wooden rafters. The triglyphs in their turn probably were originally great wooden beams, spanning the temple from side to side. They are decorated on the face with vee-shaped vertical grooves, reflecting the upward trend of the flutes of the columns. There are twice as many mutules as triglyphs, and usually, twice as many triglyphs as columns. The spaces between the triglyphs are known as "metopes" and frequently served as a field for low-relief sculpture.

The finest Greek instances of the orders are found in Athens and vicinity. Athens at first practised the Doric style almost exclusively, like the majority of the cities of the Greek mainland, but because of distant racial affinities and her political importance, was receptive of influences from Ionic Asia Minor. In fifth century B.C. Athens, there were as many fine instances of the Ionic as of Doric. This joint practice of the two styles had important consequences.

Because of its slenderness, the Ionic column invariably has a moulded base. The original Asia Minor form of the base is shown in (a) and (b) of Figure 1. The whole base is circular on plan. The lower of the two main elements is drum-shaped, though the sides are slightly concave: the upper takes the form of a large roundel known as a "torus" moulding. Both elements are elaborately enriched with flutes or with "beads" (small roundels). The Athenian examples (d) and (e) in the diagram, both dating from the fifth century B.C., illustrate the introduction of a new main element, a second torus moulding, which soon became larger than the first. Between them, the concave element shrank in importance but deepened into the characteristic profile of a "scotia " moulding. As a whole the profile shown in (e) of the figure constituted the famous "Attic" base, used thereafter until modern times with little modification except that a square (on plan) plinth, initiated too in Asia Minor, comes to be added at the foot as a still further normal adjunct. Profile (c) in this Figure 1, illustrates the conservatism of Asia Minor Ionic, for it still shows the original arrangement of members although it is approximately a century later in date than the much more highly developed Athenian examples (d) and (e).

The Ionic shaft has less strongly marked entasis than the Doric. It is fluted, but the flutes are deeper and the normal is 24, against the 20 of the Doric. Instead of meeting on a sharp arris they are separated by a small plain band or "fillet". The column capitals are distinguished by elaborate scrolls or "volutes", which sweep like a partly-opened inverted scroll of parchment across the top of an echinus, circular on plan like the similar feature of the Doric capital. Above the volute band is a very shallow abacus, with a moulded edge. Originally the abacus was rectangular, the greater dimension running in the line of the entablature, and the volute scrolls projected widely beyond the line of column. In the Athenian instances (e.g., the Erechtheum, Plates 22-24) the abacus has become square on plan and the volutes are drawn more closely together. The Erechtheum capitals are exceptionally rich and decorative, and have a band of ornament below them which is not usually present. The front and back faces of the normal Ionic capital are identical in design; on the sides, the volute "cushion" is seen, elaborated in typical Asia Minor fashion with numerous flutes and beads, separated by fillets. This two-faced arrangement produced difficulties at the angles of a building which had to be met by the use of a*special diagonally-canted volute (Plates 23, 26).

The typical form of the Ionic architrave suggests that the arrangement in timber which it reproduces was that of a series of two or of three flat wooden plates, placed one on top of the other, each represented in the stone form by a fascia (Figure 2). Among the group of mouldings constituting the original form of the cornice, the chief is that of the "dentil" band, the dentils, as the term suggests, being large tooth-like projections, which seem definitely to represent former rafter or beam ends. The dentil band and the principal moulded members immediately above and below it together constitute the "bed-moulding", occurring beneath another important element, the "corona", a deep plain band which projects strongly beyond the face of the building. Figure 2 shows how persistent this bed-mould was to be.

The adoption of the Ionic order in Athens and the Greek mainland brought it under the influence of the Doric, and an immediate result there was the addition to the entablature of a frieze (Figure 2, c). Unlike the Doric, the Ionic frieze was continuous and architecturally plain, though often decorated with low-relief sculpture. Temporarily, the bed-mould was ejected and Athenian fifth-century cornices show little below the projecting corona band except a simple small moulding. The bed-mould returned into use again in due course, as has been shown earlier, though the frieze remained henceforward a regular part of the entablature.

Instances such as the last show that as time progresses there is some tendency for the orders to lose their initial purity, and interact upon each other. For the most part, however, they retain their original characteristics through Greek times, despite the practice, which became notable in the fifth century B.C., of using the two orders in the one building. Often there were structural advantages in doing so. The Greeks did not come to understand the principle of the triangulation of wooden roof-members until possibly the third century B.C. and so had to provide frequent pillar supports inside their buildings. In the Doric order, a clumsy device was used internally sometimes, of standing one tier of columns upon another, to give support to the roof beams. If a single tier of columns of the normal Doric proportions had been used in such positions, the columns would have been massive indeed, and the useful interior space much diminished. On the other hand, the Ionic columns, with their greatly enhanced slenderness, could reach superior heights with much less sacrifice of useful room. In the world-famous Parthenon at Athens there were two inner apartments (Plate 70). The larger had a double range of superimposed Doric columns; the smaller, much more nearly square, four Ionic columns spanning the total height to the beams. Another fifth-century instance of the conjoint use of the two orders is the Propylaea, the entrance portal building (432 B.C.) to the Acropolis, the sacred enclosure at Athens within which the Parthenon stood. The approach way rose at an incline through the Propylaea, so that the Doric colonnades of the front and the rear porches were at different levels. They were connected by two lines of Ionic columns, placed at right angles to them, their bases corresponding in level with the foot of the lower Doric colonnade, and their heads with the capitals of the higher, thus affording a sightly linkage.

Whilst the Greek Doric and Ionic orders were evolved simultaneously from wooden prototypes, and always reflect their constructional origin, a third order, the Corinthian, owes its beginnings to an artificial, aesthetic impulse. Its invention is attributed to a Greek of the name Callimachus, a bronze worker of Corinth of the fifth century B.C. Whether or no the tradition is true, it appears that Corinth was the seat of its origin, and since Corinth was a famed centre of the bronze-working craft in ancient times, there is justification for the belief that the earliest expressions of the order were in bronze. The original invention applied only to the capital, rich with foliations based on plant forms, and even when translated from bronze into stone, the order was Ionic as regards the entablature and shaft. The Greeks seem scarcely to have recognised its identity as a separate order, since it is only rarely used, and even so, nearly always in conjunction with one or both of the older orders.


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