The History of Balustrades: From Ancient Architecture to Modern Marvels
When you walk down your stairs or across your terrace, you’re actually crossing centuries of history but you might have never stopped to consider the history of balustrades.
In the vast world of architecture, few things blend both beauty and functionality as seamlessly as balustrades. Even though they are often overlooked, with their rhythmic patterns of posts and railings, they have adorned structures from ancient times to the modern day.
As experts in balustrade installation, we’re excited to share the story of their evolution. But this is more than a historical overview — it’s an invitation to appreciate the artistry in construction and the timeless allure of design.
What are Balustrades?
If you’ve ever admired a handsome balustrade, you wouldn’t be alone. The term “balustrade” finds its roots in 17th-century Italy, coined for its resemblance to blossoming pomegranate flowers, known as “balaustra” in Italian.
Balustrades, at their essence, are architectural features consisting of a row of shaped pillars or vertical elements topped with a railing. This distinctive design serves both decorative and functional purposes, making them versatile elements in various structures, including bridges, terraces, balconies, and staircases. The primary components of a balustrade include the vertical supports, often resembling small columns, and the horizontal railing that tops them.
These structures serve a range of functions, from blocking off areas for privacy to providing safety and support. Balustrades play a crucial role in enhancing architectural aesthetics, adding visual and physical balance to staircases, and can range from simple to highly decorative.
Steel Studio is your reliable balustrade supplier, read more about our balustrades for stairs here.
The History of Balustrades
You may be wondering when balustrades were invented. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly but the earliest examples of balustrades installation date back to ancient sculptural murals between the 13th and 7th centuries BC, primarily seen lining the windows in depictions of Assyrian palaces.
Ancient Chinese buildings also featured balustrades on their terraces, with wooden and marble versions appearing in private gardens by the 10th century. In the history of balustrades, people were incorporating them into their architectural designs as early as that.
During the Greek and Roman rule, balustrades fell out of fashion — replaced by grand columns. But they gained their popularity back during the Renaissance period. They were notably seen in designs by Michelangelo and Bernini, as well as in the Medici palace in Italy. The balustrade heads from this period were delicately detailed, depicting animal motifs and flora-inspired designs.
Since then, balustrades have become a ubiquitous architectural feature, combining both functional and aesthetic elements across a wide array of structures.
While the history of balustrades is fascinating, it’s their future that’s truly exciting.
In the contemporary architectural landscape, balustrades have undergone a significant transformation. Modern versions employ a diverse palette of materials, including sleek metals, transparent glass, and sustainable composites, allowing for both aesthetic versatility and customisation.
Technological advancements, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and eco-friendly manufacturing processes, contribute to precision and sustainability. Design innovation flourishes, ranging from minimalist balustrade installations to intricate patterns, aligning seamlessly with the open-concept spaces characteristic of modern architecture. Modern balustrades not only ensure safety but also serve as artistic statements, contributing to the overall sophistication of contemporary structures.
Modern balustrades have a strong focus on safety as well as aesthetics. As trusted balustrade specialists, we ensure our projects are SANS-compliant. Discover more about our balustrade installation projects here.
The Difference Between Balustrades and Bannisters
While often used interchangeably, “balustrades” and “bannisters” refer to two different architectural features.
Balustrades include the entire system of balusters, handrails, and supporting posts, forming a protective barrier or decorative feature along elevated structures.
Banisters, on the other hand, specifically refer to the handrail component within the balustrade, providing a functional handhold for individuals navigating stairs.
While both contribute to the overall safety and aesthetic of a staircase or terrace, understanding their unique roles is essential for precise communication and effective architectural planning. If you’re still unsure, your professional balustrade supplier will be happy to explain further during the design process.
Take Advantage of The Next Evolution of Balustrades
These architectural treasures have been refined over centuries, in palaces and museums, and now they can enrich your next project. You don’t need to make the same journey if you’re googling for “balustrade installers near me” because the Steel Studio is here.
For your next commercial or residential project, place your trust in the trusted balustrade specialists. Contact us to bring unparalleled craftsmanship and elegance to your space.