/ Eamon McGarrigle / Creative Workspace

We had the idea that it would be good to explore our architectural vocabulary starting with the column. Columns and walls offer support, but the way they do so is different. Their structural function is linear and point respectively, one braces, the other does not.

This difference also begins to reveal the story of their different meanings. The materials we use, and the way we make the top and bottom shapes the story. The sheltering protective stable quality of a wall is complemented by the heroic precarious gesture that columns make, their immense strength holding a great mass up to the sky. A wall is an edge, a border, enclosing or excluding, defining, dividing whilst columns define space but they do not close it. We have in common with columns and trees that we all stand upright.

An array of famous columns illuminated our conversation. What stood out was each in their own way tried to do more than might be expected, from Lautner’s central column, a veritable tree holding up his Californian hill house, O’Donnel and Tuomey’s Glucksman Cork Gallery, a variation on that theme, to the service columns of Stanstead Airport roof, complex structures both performing support but also servicing of the building

This idea of the multi functioning column struck a cord with a range of projects within which we have examined the potency of the column. At the Theatre Royal in Glasgow the decision to remove columns from the central stair core in an effort to capture the illusion of a gravity defying movement through the building, the delicate columns of our Academy building that give the illusion of effortless support to the huge mass above in a trick of the imagination, in contrast to the powerful externally expressed columns of our Scottish Power building, alternating structure and services freeing up the internal volumes.

In each example the column is not seen not just as a rigorous necessity but a vigorous architectural expression which at one extreme denotes absence or at the other through emphasied presence, contributes to a richer architectural experience.