AskDefine | Define pilaster

Dictionary Definition

pilaster n : a rectangular column that usually projects about a third of its width from the wall to which it is attached

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A rectangular column that projects partially from the wall to which it attached; it gives the appearance of a support, but is only for decoration.

Extensive Definition

A pilaster is a slightly-projecting flattened column built into or applied to the face of a wall. In discussing Leon Battista Alberti's use of pilasters, which Alberti reintroduced into wall-architecture, Rudolf Wittkower wrote, "The pilaster is the logical transformation of the column for the decoration of a wall. It may be defined as a flattened column which has lost its three-dimensional and tactile value."
A pilaster appears with a capital and entablature, also in "low-relief" or flattened against the wall.
The pilaster is an architectural element in classical architecture used to give the appearance of a supporting column and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function. In contrast, an engaged column or buttress can support the structure of a wall and roof above.
Pilasters often appear on the sides of a door frame or window opening on the facade of a building, and are sometimes paired with columns or pillars set directly in front of them at some distance away from the wall, which support a roof structure above, such as a portico. These vertical elements can also be used to support a recessed archivolt around a doorway. The pilaster can be replaced by ornamental brackets supporting the entablature or a balcony over a doorway.
As with a column, a pilaster can have a plain or fluted surface to its flattened rectangular profile (cross section) and can be represented in the mode of any of the classical orders. In the giant order pilasters appear as two-storeys tall, linking floors in a single unit.
The fashion of using this element from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture was adopted in the Italian Renaissance and later Greek Revival architecture.

See also

A pilaster in civil engineering is a vertical rectangular member that is structurally a pier, and architecturally a column. Pilasters are used to decrease the slenderness ratio for the height of masonry walls - L/R<120.


  • Lewis, Philippa and Gillian Darley, Dictionary of Ornament (1986) NY: Pantheon


pilaster in Bulgarian: Пиластър
pilaster in Catalan: Pilastra
pilaster in Czech: Pilastr
pilaster in Danish: Pilaster
pilaster in German: Pilaster
pilaster in Estonian: Pilaster
pilaster in Spanish: Pilastra
pilaster in French: Pilastre
pilaster in Italian: Parasta
pilaster in Hebrew: פילסטר
pilaster in Georgian: პილასტრი
pilaster in Latvian: Pilastrs
pilaster in Lithuanian: Piliastras
pilaster in Macedonian: Пиластер
pilaster in Dutch: Pilaster
pilaster in Japanese: 付柱
pilaster in Norwegian: Pilaster
pilaster in Polish: Pilaster
pilaster in Portuguese: Pilastra
pilaster in Russian: Пилястра
pilaster in Finnish: Pilasteri
pilaster in Swedish: Pilaster

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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