These form a flexible structure that unites the Lawn, both physically and conceptually. Functionally, they serve as an exterior covered passage in which students can travel around the circumference of the Lawn and access the dormitories, classrooms, and library while being sheltered from the elements. Symbolically, the dual nature of democratic society – the balance and conflict between individual freedom and collective order – are embodied in the syntactic deployment of the columns.
The column can be considered the fundamental “unit” of society. This aspect is reflected in its Tuscan order, which is considered the most basic of the architectural orders. More dramatically, a single column is framed on center in several of the openings that can be accessed from the side paths leading to the Lawn. As one approaches the colonnade from these paths, the isolation of the single column emphasizes its individuality; by the time one enters the walkway, this reading gives way to an understanding of its participation within a multiplicity, as the entire colonnade comes into view. Its original beige sandstone color further emphasized its distinct but plural identity. While the repetition of the column is what gives the Lawn its immediate coherence, its seeming constancy and symmetricality is belied by what is actually a mobile variability.
The colonnade is in fact not symmetrical. Due to
the terracing of the Lawn, as well as the different widths and orders of the
spacing of the colonnade, or intercolumniation,
must shift accordingly.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, each Pavilion interacts with the colonnade
in a different manner. In Pavilion VII (the first Pavilion
to be built), the columniation (at the ground level) is entirely suspended,
an arcade of
piers being substituted. Several of the Pavilions (such as Pavilion V), have giant
orders which connect the colonnade on either side of it, although
the orders are pushed forward to
designate their position in the hierarchy. Pavilion VIII, on the other hand,
has a giant order that is recessed into
a niche that forms the entrance to the building. Pavilion VI has no giant order
at all; its order is the same as
the colonnade, although it is shifted forward to designate its belonging to
the Pavilion. The intercolumniation becomes compressed around
some of the Pavilions: sometimes the compression is symmetrical (as
in Pavilion III), and sometimes not (as in Pavilion V, due to the sloping terrace).
The columns flanking Pavilion X are grouped in twos to reflect the spacing
of the Pavilion order, in effect appropriating that section of
the colonnade along with its dormitory cells to imply that they are part of
the Pavilion complex. Rather than a static entity, the colonnade exists in
a dynamic equilibrium, since the column unit can enter into highly variable
relations with each other and with the Pavilion orders, depending on each contingent
situation; as an image of how “order and liberty seek their integration,” it
could not be more vivid.