A Symmetry Classification of Columns

Martin Golubitsky and Ian Melbourne
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (1998)
Pages 209–224


The Yale art historian George Hersey showed us the columns in Figure 1 and asked us whether the ideas of symmetry breaking could be used to help classify architectural columns. Provoked by this question and the intriguing columns in that figure, we attempted to answer Hersey in the following way. We view a column as a deformed cylinder and column symmetries as the subgroup of the symmetries of the cylinder that preserve the column.