Pilaster

Pilaster

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A pilaster is a slightly-projecting column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

 built into or applied to the face of a wall. Most commonly flattened or rectangular in form, pilasters can also take a half-round form or the shape of any type of column, including tortile.

In discussing Leon Battista Alberti's use of pilasters, which Alberti reintroduced into wall-architecture, Rudolf Wittkower
Rudolf Wittkower
Rudolf Wittkower was a German art historian.-Biography:He was born in Berlin and moved to London in 1934. He taught at the Warburg Institute, University of London from 1934 to 1956 and then at Columbia University from 1956 to 1969 where he was chairman of the Department of Art History and...

 wrote, "The pilaster is the logical transformation of the column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

 for the decoration of a wall. It may be defined as a flattened column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

 which has lost its three-dimensional and tactile value."

A pilaster appears with a capital
Capital (architecture)
In architecture the capital forms the topmost member of a column . It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface...

 and entablature
Entablature
An entablature refers to the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave , the frieze ,...

, also in "low-relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

" or flattened against the wall.

The pilaster is an architectural element in classical architecture
Classical architecture
Classical architecture is a mode of architecture employing vocabulary derived in part from the Greek and Roman architecture of classical antiquity, enriched by classicizing architectural practice in Europe since the Renaissance...

 used to give the appearance of a supporting column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

 and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function. In contrast, an engaged column
Engaged column
In architecture, an engaged column is a column embedded in a wall and partly projecting from the surface of the wall, sometimes defined as semi or three-quarter detached...

 or buttress
Buttress
A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

 can support the structure of a wall and roof above.

Pilasters often appear on the sides of a door frame or window opening on the facade
Facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

 of a building, and are sometimes paired with columns or pillar
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s set directly in front of them at some distance away from the wall, which support a roof structure above, such as a portico
Portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

. These vertical elements can also be used to support a recessed archivolt
Archivolt
An archivolt is an ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch. It is composed of bands of ornamental moldings surrounding an arched opening, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a rectangular opening...

 around a doorway. The pilaster can be replaced by ornamental brackets
Bracket (architecture)
A bracket is an architectural member made of wood, stone, or metal that overhangs a wall to support or carry weight. It may also support a statue, the spring of an arch, a beam, or a shelf. Brackets are often in the form of scrolls, and can be carved, cast, or molded. They can be entirely...

 supporting the entablature or a balcony over a doorway.

When a pilaster appears at the corner intersection of two walls it is known as a canton.

As with a column, a pilaster can have a plain or fluted surface to its profile and can be represented in the mode of any architectural style. During the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 and Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 architects a range of pilaster forms. In the giant order
Giant order
In Classical architecture, a giant order is an order whose columns or pilasters span two stories...

 pilasters appear as two-storeys tall, linking floors in a single unit.

The fashion of using this element from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture was adopted in the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

, gained wide popularity with Greek Revival architecture
Greek Revival architecture
The Greek Revival was an architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, predominantly in Northern Europe and the United States. A product of Hellenism, it may be looked upon as the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture...

, and continues to be seen in some modern architecture.

See also


  • Archivolt
    Archivolt
    An archivolt is an ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch. It is composed of bands of ornamental moldings surrounding an arched opening, corresponding to the architrave in the case of a rectangular opening...

  • Buttress
    Buttress
    A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

  • Post and lintel
    Post and lintel
    Post and lintel, or in contemporary usage Post and beam, is a simple construction method using a lintel, header, or architrave as the horizontal member over a building void supported at its ends by two vertical columns, pillars, or posts...

  • Engaged column
    Engaged column
    In architecture, an engaged column is a column embedded in a wall and partly projecting from the surface of the wall, sometimes defined as semi or three-quarter detached...

  • Classical architecture
    Classical architecture
    Classical architecture is a mode of architecture employing vocabulary derived in part from the Greek and Roman architecture of classical antiquity, enriched by classicizing architectural practice in Europe since the Renaissance...

  • List of classical architecture terms