Columns are not straight! Yes, the very architectural columns you see outside of stately banks, museums like the Vancouver Art Gallery, or those lining the famous Greek Parthenon, are not straight. It is an architectural trick of the eye. In the past, architects recognized that if one was to mount straight columns side by side, an optical illusion made it seem as though the columns were warping inward, in a concave manner. Of course no architect would want to be accused of inappropriately measuring columns, so they made them convex in shape to get rid of this illusion. This added to a building’s overall aesthetic appeal and grandiose nature. Mounting convex columns is an architectural strategy still used today.
The columns at the Cannery are not straight either, but not for the same reasons. In the cannery’s circumstance it has more to do with age and material, than it does with design. The Cannery’s columns have the same function as those found at the Parthenon, for structural support, but their purpose is functional and less aesthetic. While they are not bold and beautiful statements of architectural ability like the Parthenon’s columns are, they are equally impressive as they act as main support systems for the cannery building and bear a lot of weight.
Littered throughout the Cannery, these columns have aged over time. Unlike their Greek cousins, these ones are made out of wood. Wood is not a long-lasting material, it degrades – breaks down, chips, rots, and loses strength over time – and thus are not straight! The Seismic 2000 construction team is busy working to replace 10 columns throughout the building. The new columns, still made of wood (in keeping with the structural integrity of the building) are, however, the straightest wood the cannery has seen in 120 years (when it was first built).
Visit the Cannery over the next week to see some new straight columns set in place and the removal of the not so straight ones!