The Library of Columbia University



In the photo above is The Library of Columbia University, located on the university’s campus.

As seen in the picture, the building has the signature column design of the ionic order. The columns have the ridges along the shaft, and the body tapers from small to big, creating a sense of slenderness to the columns. At the top of the columns are the capital’s curled scrolls, and the bottom is the stylobate and stereobate.

The library also features a dome, a feature of Ancient Greek architecture that is seen in The Pantheon. Although there is no opening to the ceiling like the oculus of The Pantheon, the building takes after its portico and rotunda structure. As for the frieze, the building makes a simple inscription of the library’s name. The photo also shows the use of Roman numerals MDCCLIV, which dates to 1754, the year Columbia University was established. There are also laurel leaves on the frieze, which refers to the symbol of victory or status that was given to the Greek god Apollo. The laurel’s symbol can be implied to Columbia’s high status as a Ivy League university.

Unlike the traditional forms of Ancient Greek architecture, the library has fully enclosed walls, windows, and air conditioners behind the columns. The walls prevent rain, snow, or wind from going into the library, but the large windows enable the same appreciation of natural or heaven-like light as the Greeks. The building is also most likely made out of concrete (as most modern buildings are), and may contain a sort of metal skeleton within to withhold the weight of the whole building. On the other hand, Ancient Greeks used a mixture of clay, rocks, minerals to build their temples.


Vicky Lee, Team Hermes


Greek/Roman Architecture On Campus


our very own Ingersoll




library (side)


library tower

I was walking around campus and thinking about this assignment when I noticed that pretty much every building on Brooklyn College’s campus has elements of Greek and/or Roman architectural design. In the 4 pictures above, you can see an arcade of arches (Ingersoll), arches with column designs between them and a pediment above (Roosevelt), an arch-shaped window and columns setting off the windows (library), and arches supporting a structure topped by a dome (library tower).

Greek temples used columns very often, since they relied on post-lintel architecture. The Romans began using arches (and, by extension, domes) because they allowed more stability and more open indoor space. Modern day architecture doesn’t need to rely on domes or columns to hold up our ceilings, but we still use elements like this in specific contexts.

Classical architecture is very popular for inspiration when it comes to buildings that need to have a certain gravitas. The structure of columns and arches lends that kind of weight, a way of hinting that this too is old and respectable. College campuses and governmental facilities often have similar features to the temples of old because it subtly implies importance. The design elements are no longer strictly functional; we use them because we like how they look and what they mean. By recreating these ideas in brick instead of marble or concrete, we prove that we don’t need them but choose to include them for the aesthetic benefits.

-Chaya Ovits, team Venus