What are the defining characteristics of Doric Greek Architecture?

There’s something unique about medieval architecture that makes us wonder, “How were they able to achieve that?” Imagine if they had today’s modern construction machinery, things would’ve been way different. Roman, Greek, Aztec, and Indian architectural works enchant us whenever we look at them.

In simpler terms, architecture can be described as the method or way of constructing buildings and other structures. Some people consider architecture as art, while others consider it a subsection of engineering. Well, it incorporates both.

What is Doric Greek Architecture?

Greeks were very inventive when it came to experimenting with different styles and methods of building architectures. The word ‘Doric’ is derived from the word ‘Dorian,’ which means someone from the Dorian race or somethingthatbelongs to the Doris region.

Doric Greek Architecture was the first order of stone architecture in ancient Greece. Before the Doric order, the Greeks relied on basic wooden structures. This style of architecture set the foundation for the future orders of Greek architecture. The Doric Order isdistinguishable from other Greek orders because it has prominent columns and entablatures. The entire structure reliedon these columns and entablatures for strength and integrity.

The Defining Characteristics of Doric Greek Architecture

surviving remains of an ancient Doric Greek structureThe buildings and structures formed under the Doric order are easily identified by their columns. The columns provided strength to the structure and allowed for other structures to be built adjacent to it. However, we’ll get into more details in this article. Following are some of the striking characteristics of Doric Order structures:

1. No Base

Unlike other Greek architecture orders, there was no base for the shafts of the columns to rest on. Therefore, the columns were directly placed on the temple pavement, called the stylobate.

Some consequent forms of the order did have a base beneath the columns. The base used in those versions was a conventional plinth-and-torus base, usually used to place pedestals, statues, or other structures.

2. Fluted Columns

Doric Order building had fluted columns in common, which indirectly meant that there almost 20 grooves in them. This gave out a unique aesthetic and allowed the columns to be placed in a more calculated manner since they had to be balanced precisely to support the architrave.

3. Tapered Shafts

The shafts were wider at the bottom and became narrower as they moved upwards. So, the radius of the column decreased as the height of the column increased. The tapering of shafts played a kind of optical illusion as it made the building appear taller than it was. This helped in balancing them as well as stabilizing the structure on the top.

4. Simple Capital

The capital consisted of a necking, echinus, and an abacus. The necking was kept very simple, with no decorations. The echinus had a convex symmetry, and it spread outwards. Lastly, a square abacus came on top of the echinus to complete the capital. The capital was sturdy enough to hold the weight of the structure placed on top of it.

5. Entablature

The entablature was the structure that rested on top of the columns. The entablature was comprised of multiple parts. The entablature of the Doric order was unique and simple. It was different from other orders because its components -architrave and frieze – differed in embellishing and decorative pieces.

6. Undecorated Architrave

The architrave was the part that began the entablature. It sat directly on top of the capital. In the Doric order, the architrave was kept simple, i.e., it was undecorated.

7. Distinctive Frieze Section

The most distinctive feature of the Greek Doric Architecture was the frieze structure in the entablature. The structure was unique because it consisted of two parts: the triglyphs and the metopes.


Triglyphswere units of stone that had three bands in them. The bands were in a vertical orientation and were separated by grooves. The triglyphswere meant to resemble the end of wooden beams that were used in temples made of wood. In this way, an element of previous wooden temples was preserved and displayed in the new stone ones.


The metopeswere receding square panels that were placed after a triglyph. The panels of a metopecould be placed, just as they were, or they could also have some sculptured reliefs carved into it to increase the beauty of the piece.

These triglyphs and metopeswere the most distinct feature of the Doric order.  The distinction came from the alternating pattern of these triglyphs and metopes. One came right after the other, and this alternating pattern continued across the building.

8. Cornice

On top of the frieze laythe cornice. This part directly supported the structure on top, which was the ceiling.

The BibliothèqueMazarine or Mazarin Library in Paris

Placement of Triglyphs

The placement of the triglyphs was specially accounted for. To maintain symmetry, there was one triglyph placed right in the middle and on top of each column. And one triglyph was placed in between the columns. The remaining spaces were filled with metopes.

Problems Faced

The Doric order was the very first time where Greek architects were dealing with stone. They had to account for the weight of stone while calculating the measurements of everysection of the building. The Greeks wanted their temples to look as aesthetically balanced and symmetric as possible without losing structural integrity. Thus, a conflict arose, which is known as the Doric corner conflict.

The Doric Corner Conflict

Even though triglyphs’ placement has already been stated above, it was not as simple as it seems. Some issues were faced in doing so. They were placed just as explained above, but the issue was with the triglyph, which was supposed to be on top of the last column.

The architrave unit, at this point, needed full support. To provide this support in the first few temples, the triglyph was moved to the corners. But moving it made it off-centered, which ruined the symmetry. The Greeks proposed and employed many tricks to combat this issue, but the classic solution was to decrease the distance between the last two columns. This iscalled corner contraction, which visually tightened the corners and helped keep the regular order of the triglyphs and metopes intact.


To conclude, we can say that the most characteristic details of the Doric order were a plain, unadorned column capital and a column that had no base, and one that rested directly on the stylobate of the temple. The frieze, as described earlier, was also a distinctive feature of the order. The harmony in the alternating pattern of triglyph and metopes, although hard to maintain, struck one as a very symmetric feature.

The Doric order was the first time the Greeks were using stone in their architecture. They kept things simple and focused more on the structure. They calculated every little detail and measurement with utmost accuracy, such that they were able to make such high-standing temples with mere blocks of stones. Thus, Doric Greek architecture was sleek and modest.