Friday, March 2, 2012

The meaning of the Doric column

Why did the architects of Doric temples never even experiment with different approaches to the basic conception of the Doric temple? This temple type was implemented in the seventh century BC, and it was one of the most insisting building types in the history of architecture, continuing its existence with little variation for several centuries. There is good reason to believe that the architectural intention behind this temple building was based on some very fundamental values of the Dorian city-states building these temples. In my book, “The Optical Corrections of the Doric Temple”, I have tried to show that this intention was based on the most fundamental ideal of these poleis, the ideal of “unity in plurality”, which was based on the heroic outlook inherited from the alleged heroic past and became common to all layers of the citizen-body along with the development of the polis. All the most important aspects of life were organized according to this principle: the polis itself, its military organization, the hoplite phalanx, and finally the Doric temple that was the ultimate symbol of the polis. According to this principle, the optical corrections can be seen as tools in the hands of the architects designing these temples to achieve this goal, to make the temple a unity although it was composed of many.
All this points so strongly toward the suggestion that the Doric column would have been symbolizing the citizen-hoplite of the polis that there is even a good reason to ask whether there was any visual similarity between the Doric column and the hoplite soldier. And indeed, the main body of the hoplite cuirass consisted of several plates of composite material. The groin, on the other hand, was protected by a double layer of groin-flaps, the second flap covering the gaps in the first. These flaps were made of stiffened leather, and they were permanently fastened to the bottom end of the cuirass. It may seem far-fetched to point out the obvious visual similarity between this part of the cuirass and the Doric column. However, the roundish, upward curvilinearly tapering form and the visual effect caused by the flaps reminiscent of the Doric flutings certainly makes one wonder, whether this similarity has had any effect on the development, and above all the persistence of the nature of the Doric column. Some might even be able to see a visual resemblance between the Corinthian helmet and the triglyph, see the picture. All this may sound fanciful to the reader. On the other hand, as an architect myself, I can assure that for most modern architects this kind of associations would be quite legitimate ways of searching motives for their design.