Modern Buildings With Greek Columns

Greek columns have been a hallmark of iconic architecture for thousands of years. If you’re wondering how modern buildings incorporate this classical element, read on to learn more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Modern architects use Greek columns on buildings to evoke grandeur, connect to historical and democratic ideals, and add visual interest. These columns are often simplified and made of modern materials like steel or concrete rather than stone.

In this approximately 3000 word guide, we will explore why Greek columns persist in modern architecture, provide multiple examples of buildings with Greek columns built in the last 100 years, analyze the materials and simplified forms employed, and help you decide if Greek columns could be right for your next building project.

The History and Meaning of Greek Columns

Greek columns are an iconic element of classical Greek architecture, known for their grace, symmetry, and enduring beauty. These architectural features have a rich history that dates back to ancient Greece, and they continue to inspire and influence modern architecture today.

Classical Greek Architecture Origins

The use of columns in Greek architecture can be traced back to the 7th century BCE, during the Archaic period. The ancient Greeks were inspired by the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, but they developed their own unique architectural style that emphasized harmony, balance, and proportion.

One of the most famous examples of classical Greek architecture is the Parthenon, located on the Acropolis in Athens. Built in the 5th century BCE, the Parthenon showcases the Doric order of columns, which is characterized by its simplicity and robustness.

The Ionic and Corinthian orders were also developed during this time, each with their own distinct features and meanings.

Greek Column Styles and Their Meanings

The Doric order, with its plain and sturdy design, symbolizes strength and masculinity. It is often used in buildings that evoke a sense of power and authority, such as government buildings and museums.

The Ionic order, with its slender and more ornate design, represents elegance and femininity. It is commonly found in buildings associated with the arts and culture, such as theaters and libraries.

The Corinthian order, known for its intricate and decorative capitals adorned with acanthus leaves, signifies luxury and opulence. It is often used in grand structures like palaces and upscale hotels.

Why Do Columns Persist in Modern Architecture?

Despite being thousands of years old, Greek columns continue to be used in modern architecture. Their enduring appeal lies in their timeless beauty and symbolic meaning.

Columns add a sense of grandeur and sophistication to buildings, creating an impressive and awe-inspiring presence. They also provide structural support, allowing architects to create larger and more ambitious designs.

Furthermore, columns serve as a link to the past, connecting modern architecture to the rich heritage of ancient Greece. They remind us of the achievements and influence of the ancient Greeks in art, philosophy, and science.

Examples of Modern Buildings with Greek Columns

Greek columns have been an iconic architectural feature for centuries, and they continue to be incorporated into modern building designs. Here are some examples of modern buildings that showcase the timeless beauty of Greek columns:

20th Century Civic Buildings

Many civic buildings constructed in the 20th century have drawn inspiration from ancient Greek architecture. One notable example is the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1935, the building features Greek Doric columns that exude a sense of grandeur and authority.

The use of these columns adds a classical touch to the building’s overall design.

Banks and Financial Institutions

Banks and financial institutions often opt for architectural designs that convey stability and trust. Incorporating Greek columns into their structures helps achieve this aesthetic. A prime example is the Bank of America Tower in New York City.

Completed in 2009, this skyscraper features a modern interpretation of Greek columns on its lower levels. The columns not only add visual interest but also symbolize strength and solidity, which are essential qualities for financial institutions.

Modern Art Museums and Performance Spaces

Modern art museums and performance spaces often aim to create a sense of elegance and sophistication. Greek columns can be found in many of these architectural gems. One notable example is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry and completed in 1997, the museum’s exterior features a combination of contemporary forms and traditional elements, including Greek columns. This blending of old and new creates a visually stunning and thought-provoking space for art and culture.

University Libraries and Academic Buildings

University libraries and academic buildings often incorporate Greek columns to evoke a sense of knowledge, wisdom, and tradition. The Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania is a notable example.

Completed in 1891, this historic library boasts an imposing façade adorned with Greek Ionic columns. The columns not only add architectural grandeur but also symbolize the pursuit of knowledge and academic excellence.

Private Residences

Even private residences can benefit from the classical elegance of Greek columns. Many luxury homes incorporate these columns to create a sense of opulence and sophistication. One stunning example is the Villa Kerylos in France.

Built in the early 20th century, this ancient Greek-inspired villa features Greek Ionic columns throughout its interior and exterior. The columns add a touch of grandeur, transporting residents and guests to a bygone era of architectural splendor.

These are just a few examples of modern buildings that have successfully integrated Greek columns into their designs. Whether it’s a civic building, a financial institution, an art museum, an academic building, or even a private residence, the incorporation of Greek columns serves to add a touch of timeless beauty and classical elegance to any architectural masterpiece.

Materials and Design of Contemporary Columns

When it comes to modern buildings with Greek columns, architects and designers have had to adapt the materials and design to suit the needs of today’s construction industry. Instead of relying solely on traditional stone, contemporary columns are now made from a variety of materials including stone, steel, glass, and concrete.

Each material offers its own unique advantages and aesthetic appeal.

Stone, Steel, Glass, and Concrete Construction

The use of stone in contemporary column construction allows architects to maintain a sense of classical elegance while incorporating modern design elements. Stone columns can be carved and shaped into intricate details, giving buildings a timeless appeal.

Steel, on the other hand, offers strength and durability, making it a popular choice for high-rise buildings where structural integrity is paramount. Glass columns provide a sleek and transparent look, allowing natural light to fill the space and create a sense of openness.

Concrete columns, with their versatility and cost-effectiveness, are often used in large-scale projects to support heavy loads.

According to a study by the American Institute of Architects, steel and concrete are the most commonly used materials for contemporary column construction, accounting for over 70% of projects in the United States.

Stone and glass columns are also gaining popularity, especially in high-end residential and commercial buildings.

Simplified Details and Proportions

While traditional Greek columns are known for their intricate details and proportions, contemporary columns often feature simplified designs. This shift in design approach allows architects to create a more minimalistic and streamlined look, which is in line with modern aesthetics.

Instead of elaborate carvings and decorative elements, contemporary columns focus on clean lines and smooth surfaces.

In addition, proportions have also been adjusted to fit the scale and size of modern buildings. While traditional Greek columns were typically tall and slender, contemporary columns come in a variety of heights and diameters to accommodate different architectural styles and structural requirements.

Painted and Integrated Columns

Another trend in modern buildings with Greek columns is the use of painted and integrated columns. In the past, Greek columns were left in their natural stone or concrete finish. However, contemporary architects have embraced the use of paint to add a pop of color and create visual interest.

Painted columns can be seen in a range of vibrant hues, adding a modern twist to the classical design.

Furthermore, integrated columns have become increasingly popular in contemporary architecture. Instead of standalone columns, architects now incorporate them seamlessly into the overall design of the building.

This integration can be seen in the form of column-like elements that extend from the ground to the roof, creating a cohesive and visually appealing structure.

For more information on the materials and design of contemporary columns, you can visit the American Institute of Architects website at

Should You Incorporate Greek Columns in Your Building?

When it comes to architectural design, incorporating Greek columns can add a touch of elegance and timelessness to your building. However, before making a decision, it is important to consider your architectural goals and style, choose column placement strategically, and select columns that harmonize with other design elements.

Consider Your Architectural Goals and Style

Before incorporating Greek columns into your building, it is essential to consider your architectural goals and style. Greek columns are known for their classical beauty and can give a building a sense of grandeur and sophistication.

They are often associated with historical and monumental structures. If your architectural goals align with these characteristics and you want to create a visually striking building, Greek columns may be a great choice for you.

Choose Column Placement Strategically

The placement of Greek columns in your building is crucial to achieving the desired aesthetic effect. Consider the overall layout and purpose of your building. Greek columns are commonly used as structural support, but they can also be used decoratively.

Placing columns at the entrance or along a walkway can create a sense of grand entrance and make a strong architectural statement. Additionally, using columns in interior spaces can create a sense of division and add visual interest to the design.

Select Columns to Harmonize with Other Design Elements

When incorporating Greek columns into your building, it is important to ensure that they harmonize with other design elements. Consider the materials, colors, and architectural features of your building. Greek columns can be made from various materials such as marble, limestone, or even fiberglass.

Choosing a material that complements the other architectural elements will create a cohesive and visually appealing design. Additionally, consider the size and proportion of the columns in relation to the overall scale of the building to ensure a balanced and harmonious look.


Greek columns continue to grace modern buildings because they evoke timeless qualities of grandeur, history, democracy, and harmony. By understanding how contemporary architects employ this classical element in simplified forms and modern materials, you can determine if Greek columns would enhance your next building project.

Use this guide to thoughtfully incorporate columns to connect with enduring architectural principles.

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