Fluting on Columns, Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street)

Fluting. Architectural columns are one of those features found just about anywhere and everywhere you look in Indianapolis. However, columns contain a substantial vocabulary to describe even the smallest of features on each individual column. Today, we’ll touch on one element associated primarily with columns, but can be employed on another architectural features. Fluting describes a series of long, semicircular or partially elliptical grooves, placed parallel to one another to cover a surface. A single groove is known singularly as a flute or stria. Fluting primarily occurs on the shaft of classical columns, either cylindrical or pilaster (column attached to the wall, typically rectangular in plan). However, fluting is known to be applied alone as ornament on a wall or other feature.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street) features a wonderful Neo-Classical design that includes several archetypical classical features. The Central Library, completed in 1916 and designed by architect Paul Phillipe Cret, features a strong colonnade on the primary (south) façade. The limestone columns include typical fluting along the shaft of each column. The fluting starts at the base of the column and extends to the column capital (or top).

Fluting on Columns, Indiana Freemasons’ Hall (525 North Illinois Street)

A second example is found at the Indiana Freemasons’ Hall (525 North Illinois Street), another Neo-Classical structure dating from 1909. Built as the Indianapolis Masonic Temple, this inconspicuous structure is located directly southwest of the Scottish Rite Cathedral and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Freemasons’ Hall includes colonnades on its north, south, and west elevations. Each column is an engaged column, meaning a column with part of its shaft seemingly ‘buried’ in the wall, but with more than half of the shaft still visible. Once again, these engaged columns feature fluting from the base all the way to the capital.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

During the rebuild of my portico entrance, I ensured the contractor retained the fluting detail on the individual column supports.

2 responses to “Building Language: Fluting”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Love those columns, whether they’re doric, ionic, or corinthian!

  2. James H. Johnson says:

    I am following this series with much interest. Thank you for helping us define the wonderful architectural features that usually go unnoticed as we move through the city! I am looking at buildings much more closely now.

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