Pediments are probably the most recognizable architectural form alongside the column. Throughout history, they have crowned all types of buildings, from ancient Greek and Roman temples to banks and even millions of our present-day homes. This triangular-shaped wall is what creates the gable end of a roof structure. In temples, it is the shape that crowns the columns or wall below, and it creates part of the iconic and powerful imagery. Its geometry is also something that announces the entrance to a building when brought to the front of a facade.
Although generally associated with classical architecture and exemplified by neoclassical and baroque architecture, pediments are seen in almost every type of architecture, including contemporary styles. The influence of the pediment is present all over the world. You may see homes and buildings with a pediment, from the rural architecture of the Midwestern United States to African huts to Italian in-town homes and even Argentine ranches. Its inclusion in so many architectures of the world is partly due to the fact that, although we recognize its beauty, it also has structural benefits.
Pediments are generally a traditional form, which evokes something established. Buildings with pediments can be from B.C. or from 1933; the Pantheon in Rome, the New York Stock Exchange and even the United States Supreme Court building all embrace the pediment and its symbolism of power and stability. It is truly a classic symbol.
Pediments have been used as decorative elements above openings, windows and doors. They are used in their most recognizable form, the triangle, but also in a rounded vault version. Variations such as the open-topped pediment or broken-top pediment were used during the Renaissance as an evolution of the classical architectural element.
As a form, what is interesting about pediments is that they are also used in furniture design. Anyone familiar with the furniture of Chippendale (no, not the dancers but rather the furniture made after the designs of British cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale) can recognize breakfronts and china cabinets with pedimented and open-pedimented tops. His work became very popular after the publishing of his 1754 book "The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director." His furniture designs are based on classical architecture and are still produced today. Chippendale's designs were influential and adopted by many others, including Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite. These furnishings are most common in traditional residential interiors, and even in some libraries and commercial buildings, and are still considered the peak of chic by some.
Tastes change over time, and fashion and trends come and go. However, the classic design is almost eternal. Because today's lifestyles tend to prefer clean, contemporary designs, now is a great opportunity to pick up antiques and quality reproductions for those with classical or eclectic inclinations. You will be able to purchase them at a fraction of their true value. So, next time you see a beautiful, classically inspired home, or perhaps a breakfront with a pediment at an antique shop or yard sale, it might be time to stop and recognize its value.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.