Playing with pillars
Pillars can be built in any shape as long as the core verticality is maintained for load transfer.
The history of architecture is full of creative forms and shapes, with buildings built possibly in every other way across the continents and centuries. This variety is caused as much by the conditions of location as by the intentions of people involved with the project.
Despite the urge to be different, strangely, pillars seem to have been treated to a greater similarity. Even today, there could be 10 varied elevations along a street, but all built with the same rectangular RCC columns.
The fear factor
The reason for standardising the pillars, even while personalising the building, could be the fear of structures. Being among the critical elements that transfer the loads, we dread the possibility of their failure. Hence, the least degree of experimentation with pillars, negating the possibility of exploring more ecological or economical options. There are numerous cases where designers tried to be eco-friendly with the walls and windows, but within over-designed columns and beams.
Consider the methods
Among the easiest methods to simplify columns has been using the stone slabs in their raw form, with minimal dressing. Being thin, they may buckle sideways in case of heavy loads, which can be resolved by double slabs bound together by mortar in between. Capping the slabs at top with metal flats and in turn welding the flat to the wall plate beam provides a fairly stable structure.
Twisting the column by gradually shifting each member and course creates the illusion of rotating pillars. Instead of brick over brick vertically, every upper brick would be built deliberately out of the plumb by half or one inch as desired. While the surface verticality is maintained, the corners alone appear curvilinear.
This construction needs good masonry skills and perfection within the act of twisting. Though attractive in form, twisted columns may appear out of context unless they are made to blend with the building as a whole.
Examples of human forms within the pillars are abundant in our traditional temples, while as a rare gesture, there is Charlie Chaplin in the stone pillar sculpted by John Devraj in the house of theatre personality C.R. Simha.
Disneyland and Ramoji film studios fantasize buildings and exhibit curious-looking elements of construction, though some of them may not be load bearing.
Villagers with lesser access to steel shuttering material often erect temporary supports with gaps between the bricks. This method can be used for permanent pillars also. Place two bricks on their edge, parallel at opposite faces of one course and the next course having two bricks on the other two faces.
So, each course has only two bricks, kept vertical, on opposite sides. We get a 9”x 9” structural pillar with holes that we can see through!
There is a simple lesson we learn by observing seemingly ordinary buildings – pillars can be built in any shape as long as the core verticality is maintained for load transfer.