Just trust the stone pillars

If locally quarried, stone pillars consume the least energy, need zero life-cycle cost and also look elegant.

Have we observed one major difference between what we see along the street in older parts of the town and the newer parts? Within the line-up of buildings, traditional streets exhibit a variety of pillars, while the newer areas have more of walls and windows.

Pillars are seen in all possible masonry materials like brick, wood and stone, as could be locally available and often matching with the material used for the building. Though carved decorations were common in the bygone days, simple, plain pillars were also popular with the low-budget houses.

Huge loads

Let us remember, in those days, reinforced concrete columns were still unknown. However, the masonry pillars took huge loads of large havelis, shrines, palaces or pavilions. Structurally, pillars take axial load, i.e., the vertical load, from the superstructure in conjunction with the beam.

While the beam has to be singular and monolith across, lest it will crack at the centre, the pillar need not be so. Any material that can take compression can be piled one on another vertically to get the pillar effect. Even bags filled with sand can be placed on each other to get the pillar!


Historically, stone pillars appear to be among the most popular around the world, especially in localities where stone is available. The four major attractions of stone — beauty, dignity, durability and strength – made it a popular choice for a range of buildings, from choultries to temples.

The carved single piece pillars added to the public image of havelis and palaces, expressing the social status of the building owner. Often we see huge stone pillars in Indian temples supporting the massive towers, suggesting the strength of the pillar.

Back in usage

Curiously, single piece stone pillars are back in usage once again, in few cities where stone quarries are nearby. Once the building designs are finalised, the required pillar dimensions are provided to specially quarry it to order.

While the basic component of the pillar comprising the base piece, the main shaft and the top are maintained, carvings are kept to the minimal nowadays. Considering that the roof cannot be cast unless the pillar is in place, the project needs to be coordinated right from the designing stage itself.

Present-day buildings have a clear height close to 10′, but not all quarries can safely supply pillars of that height. In such cases, a short base platform needs to be built upon where the pillar could be rested.

To ensure no side buckling or slippage of parts happens due to unforeseen diagonal loads, and to tie the pillar to the beam on top, a small hole is drilled into the stone at every junction, holes on both sides are connected with iron rods and the holes filled with rich mortar, araldite or even molten lead.

If locally quarried, stone pillars consume the least energy, save time, need zero life-cycle cost, look elegant and are fully retrievable. It is possibly among the most eco-friendly options today.


Posted on February 18, 2012, in designs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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