Why old buildings use the same leaf design

Why old buildings use the same leaf design

There’s a reason almost every column has the same leaves…

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In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards explores why columns look the way they do — in particular, the leave-strewn Corinthian columns you’ll often see on buildings (both old and new).

These leaves actually have an originating myth courtesy of the writer Vitruvius, crediting Callimachus for the Corinthian column design. The acanthus leaves on the column have remained consistent over millennia, and, over time, have come to represent more than just a sturdy plant.

They’re on display in this video at the National Arboretum, where columns that used to sit on the United States Capitol have been relocated. These striking columns aren’t just a historical record — they’re a symbol of how Corinthian design and acanthus leaves manage to endure over time.

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83 Responses

  1. PlayGrounds Channel says:

    we should build more old buildings ?

    • Tim Slee says:

      So true man! We should strive to be creative while understanding the importance of these aesthetic principles that have been established over thousands of years! Instead of going crazy and making any design for the sake of ‘creativity’ alone, architects need to understand that we had it right hundreds of years ago instead of trying to make something new that will end up looking ugly or bland.

    • Tim Slee says:

      +Coolidge Dollar
      Good to see many people here who respect classical architecture. Your statement is actually quite true, some of the ugliest modern buildings cost tens of millions and the maintenance is insane on some of these eyesores! Just look up “Worlds ugliest buildings”, I can assure you and everyone here that none of them were cheap.

    • Tim Slee says:

      +Real supremeMan
      Well Mr. Expert, I would like to see these ‘great’ modern buildings outlast any old building in time and style.

    • Augusto says:

      PlayGrounds Channel I studied architecture and there is reason why we don’t build like this anymore, it’s is a long explanation…but I want to ask you Why people dosent wear clothes like of hundreds years ago, why we don’t listen to the same musics, why we don’t behave like the old time of classy ladies and gentlemen? Architecture as any other art form has relation with our culture and mindset, there is no reason to build like 500dc if we don’t have the same mentality.

    • Truth Seeking Freedom Fighter says:

      Maia A said the African who never achieved anything

  2. seasong says:

    Can you 3D print these columns?

  3. Putraenus Alivius says:

    I really like these types of Vox videos where it’s more or less apolitical.

    • hedgehog3180 says:

      Actually architecture is incredibly political. There’s often huge debates over which buildings should be preserved, which styles new buildings should be built in etc. Not to mention the fact that the very act of using these columns is a way for the US government to link themselves to the ancient Greek and Roman democracies. This is essentially a declaration in the form of architecture that the US is the successor to ancient Greece and Rome. That is incredibly political. It just happens to be politics which you have become used to and have accepted and therefor it is inoffensive to you and you perceive that as it being apolitical.

    • Adam Smith says:

      The video isn’t openly adversarial toward the right like many Vox videos are, but it certainly isn’t apolitical.

      I felt the last note of the video (that acanthus leaves “may never be replaced”) touches on the issue of mass immigration in a subtle way. There is a lot of anxiety on the right about the imminent extinction of western civilization and the threat of being “replaced” by outsiders. So talking about the endurance of a symbol of the west is more than just a “fun fact” moment.

  4. Jock Lucas says:

    I feel like Vox is the Wikipedia of Youtube, you just click links and nek minute you’re watching a video about leaves on old buildings (big fan tho <3)

    • Fruit500 says:

      +Miggerz Because I still like (most of) the content. I’ll just ignore political ones

    • hedgehog3180 says:

      Expressing an opinion isn’t bias. Also Wikipedia is hardly free of bias what do you think edit wars are about?

    • Fruit500 says:

      Vox has 55 videos with “Trump” in title, 7 videos with “Hillary”. Most of the Trump were quite negative whereas Hillary ones were more positive. If that isn’t bias, I don’t know what is. I’m not a political person so I don’t really care, but just thought worth mentioning.

      Didn’t/Don’t know about Wikipedia wars tho, might check that out.

    • Brennan R says:

      Fruit500 Maybe because he is the current person in office, Hillary is not. Now, I’m no supporter of Hillary nor Trump, but there’s nothing more to talk about Hillary – instead there’s something to discuss about the individual in the presidency and the party that controls most of today’s laws and politics.

    • IZZIE ! says:

      Fruit500 well he is the current president, hillary isn’t. it only makes sense that he’s talked about more

  5. POTATO MAN says:

    I wish Vox Borders come back 🙁

    (Vox Almanac is the second best thing in Vox, but I miss Borders the most)

  6. Our Founding Liars says:

    Stop focusing on the illuminati triangle and focus on the leaf column symbol of the organic troll order. Keep asking questions.

  7. GOOD SIMPLE IMPACT Sustainable Lifestyle Channel says:

    Something I’ve noticed but never gave two seconds of thought. Thank you for enlightening me Vox!!

    • Hallo898 gjjjhjjj says:

      GOOD SIMPLE IMPACT Sustainable Lifestyle Channel Because roman empire still exist . We are now in 2018 years of roman empire. History in school are lie and propaganda. Same Moneyprinters since roman empire. Now look at the central banks and gouvernment building around the globe. SAME architecture. I hope this Channal make a video about it……

    • Real Laundry Sauce says:

      Hallo898 gjjjhjjj kill ur self

    • Dennis S says:

      Hallo898 gjjjhjjj For the record, the Roman empire started before year zero, so you might want to learn basic facts before preaching your ridiculous conspiracy theory.

  8. Livin' Like Larry says:

    1. Cause it looks boujee AF

    • sthngo says:


    • Hallo898 gjjjhjjj says:

      hedgehog3180 Go to google and typ gournment building of the world. Swiss is the capital of central bankers after rom was dystroyed. If you dont believe me, look at the bank accounts of politicans arround the world. All top secret in switzerland.

    • Livin' Like Larry says:

      Boaz Thomassie Thats a boujee way of spelling boujee

    • Tim Evans says:

      Boujee comes from the french word, bourgeois, which refers to the Middle Class. I don’t understand why people think boujee means high-class or pretentious…if you’re going to be jealous of someone’s status, aim higher than middle class, otherwise, you’re displaying your lower class peasantry for the world to see.

    • No this is Patrick says:

      Bad and boujee

  9. Andi CRIMSON says:

    tl;dr: it’s the third type they learn in architecture schools. Too lazy to make original designs.

    • murrrmur says:

      Tim Slee modern trash? lol please don’t be an ignorant and arrogant freshman.

    • Andi CRIMSON says:

      It’s more like all musical students learn the same classical scales, but I do remember the specific column top in three (or four) different projections being used as a standard test. At least here, at the Architectural University in Odessa. Students I knew former who cursed that damn column! XD

    • Daenke Kong says:

      Tim Slee You haven’t even started Architecture school man, stay in your lane.

    • Tim Slee says:

      +Luka Rajsic
      I completely agree! I don’t want to duplicate these designs but I don’t want to take away their character either. I want to find ways of adding different intricate shapes and patterns to buildings to add character in easy and cost effective ways. Good to see someone here who isn’t dismissing my points as completely ludicrous without reading into them.

  10. Dewa Eryadi says:

    They like weed

  11. BebopUkulele says:

    Why were the columns removed?

    • James Tang says:

      Don’t take this accurately but I think it was because they were for a older and larger plan for the White House that got cut. Again, this is a bad memory, not the most accurate.

    • Southern Illinois Drivers says:

      When the iron dome was completed it was much larger than the design plans intended so they added to the east portico to even out the design. The added weight of the building made these sandstone columns too fragile and so they were replaced with marble columns.

    • David Carmer says:

      That sounds reasonable and authoritative. I will not bother to verify it. 🙂

  12. Barton Lynch says:

    I love this and have something to share: currently in the US Capitol, by the old Supreme Court, there are columns with ears of corn on top. I love the idea of using the traditional column but topping it with a uniquely American plant. Unfortunately the corn, and the tobacco, didn’t catch on.

  13. Science with Katie says:

    The jazz hands were commendable ???

  14. shortbuspileup says:

    I love Corinthian columns. New architecture is so devoid of ornamentation and elegance that it makes cities look monotone and depressing.

  15. Jay Kay says:

    I wish there were videos about India…

  16. Leonie H says:

    Love this kind of content. Thank you guys so much for putting out such great quality content. Appreciate it?

  17. Foomandoonian says:

    But WHY were the columns removed from the capitol building? I was expecting some sort of interesting story there! (I checked; apparently the building just had an extension put on.)

  18. Lashan says:

    I remember studying this in architecture, but we never learned any reasoning behind the Corinthian design. Good to know!

  19. J Lee says:

    could you please continue the “overrated” series??
    I love these kind of inspection amongst art!

    • xxxMattmanxxx - says:

      Hallo898 gjjjhjjj you’re crazy. Just because the architecture and influence of a civilisation is still referenced and is still used doesn’t mean that civilisation still exists. We have architecture from many fallen civilisations. Are you trying to say that there is a worldwide conspiracy that the Roman Empire still lives on and controls us all? You need help

    • xxxMattmanxxx - says:

      Hallo898 gjjjhjjj also I don’t know what you’re talking about with money printers since the Roman Empire died hundreds of years before money printing hahahahaha

    • Hallo898 gjjjhjjj says:

      xxxMattmanxxx – Go to google and typ Gouvernment buildings/central banks of the world. Go to pictures and look at the archtecture of the buildings. Do you realky think, they were just copied for art? The most powerful Buildings look like roman empire architecture, because todays central banking and money system came from roman empire. We are now 2018 years and same group control it till now.

    • Soyoko U. says:

      Hallo898 gjjjhjjj Wasn’t the architecture of the Romans heavily influenced by the Greeks? And what evidence do you have other than they look alike?

    • Hallo898 gjjjhjjj says:

      Soyoko U. You think everyone copied the architecture blindly? Todays worldwide moneysystem cant work without some architecture from behind. Its like a worldwide connected internet cable. All the centralbanks are connected to the same group and begann with roman enpire to control the conquerd lands. The architecture represent the architect. More evidence? Look at the military uniforms and their symbols. Same in evety country, evan in russia and north korea.

  20. Charles Kuhn says:

    Reminds me of my greek lessons in school

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