Time-honored Porticos

In Classic Greek architecture, a portico or pronaos, meaning “before a temple” (from which the English word portico derives) was the principal roofed entrance to a Greek temple. While the portico originated as a prominent architectural feature in Ancient Greece, it became a widely adopted element in classically inspired structures throughout the world.

Once a Roman Temple, the Pantheon’s portico is designed with granite Corinthian columns. Nono vlf, Panthéon, Rome, CC BY-SA 4.0

Today, porticos serve both practical and aesthetic purposes in residential home design. From a functional standpoint, a covered entryway protects homeowners, as well as their deliveries and guests, from rain or snow when entering or exiting their homes. Visually, porticos break up the flat face of the façade.

A design of a portico should complement the existing architecture in both style and scale.

When designing porticos for our clients, we first consider the home’s architectural character and style, and then the hierarchical role of the feature. If, for example, we wish to present the home to the public in a more formalized way, the portico may take on classically ornate detailing – sometimes including a balcony and decorative railing above.

The arc in this balconied portico follows the line of the rounded neoclassic stoop.

Other times, we design the portico to sensitively complement the house and roof line. In this scenario, we still effectively avoid a flat plane by creating a dimensional push and pull, but the portico is presented in a quieter, less ornate manner.

A shingled portico gracefully matches the Arts and Crafts shingle-style house.

If we are preserving space, a more conservative, bracketed portico (without columns) or a classic shed (flat) design adds warmth and character to the home’s façade without taking up too much area.

This bracketed portico animates the front entrance and seamlessly complements the roofline.

Whether grandly gabled with ornate columns or quietly classic, the portico is a time-honored architectural feature that enhances the character and complements the scale of the façade, all while meeting the functional needs of its inhabitants.