Back To Top

Pergolas Throughout History

Pergolas Throughout History

The pergola is a staple of the backyard, we can all agree. But did you know that the history of these structures can be traced back to almost 5000 years ago?

Spotted throughout Roman architecture, in countries like Greece, and China, Ancient Pergolas have been used to grow foliage and tasty wines, as shade for the wealthy and royal, and today are still prominent features in backyards across the globe.

Today’s blog will explore the vast history of the pergola, how these versatile structures have evolved, and how they continue to stand the test of time. 

What is a Pergola?

Before divulging into the history of these stunning structures let’s be sure we’re all on the same page about what they are. A pergola is a structure that creates a shaded area, most often a walkway or a seating area. Its roof is traditionally flat, commonly covered with vines or other foliage. However, it can also be left open, or covered with weatherproof fabric or another lightweight material.

Derived from the Latin word “Pergula” meaning “projective eave,” these open structures are constructed of vertical posts or pillars that often support cross beams and a sturdy open lattice.

Pergolas also don’t always look the same. They can be connected to a building on one side, consist of independent columns supporting beams that form its open roof, or serve as a freestanding structure.

When attached to a building, pergolas extend from the exterior side or roof, creating a shaded or semi-shaded space, which connects the interior of the house to the outdoor space.

As freestanding structures, pergolas are recognized as having four or more posts or columns, which support a traditionally flat roof, and beams left in one direction or topped with cross beams or slats.

Whether an extension of an edifice, a freestanding structure, or a passageway between two buildings, a pergola is a beautiful backyard accessory that can provide protection from the elements, an outdoor spot to entertain guests and lasting value and beauty to your humble abode.

The Early Origins of Pergolas. 

The earliest notion of a pergola dates back to Ancient Egypt wherein debate exists over whether they were designed strictly for aesthetics or for minimizing the effects of the weather. Many believe Egyptians also used these structures for growing figs and house vines.

It was after the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC, though, that pergolas become a key function in Roman architecture. Romans and Greeks incorporated pergolas into more luxurious structures, meant for growing grape vines, which would later be used for their immense wine-making. France, too, caught on to the pergola trend, however, it was primarily contained to upper-class neighbourhoods, as a symbol of wealth and nobility.

In 1645, John Evelyn referenced Pergolas in an Italian context while in Rome. He first used the word to describe the walkway of Italy’s beloved church, Trinita dei Monti, and the structures he witnessed there. A few years later, in 1654, the word made its way to English. It was at this time that these open structures also began to appear in Eastern Asia. There, pergolas revealed the curved beams frequently seen on the Region’s pagodas.

During the Great Renaissance of the 17th Century, functionality took a backseat, and instead, the transcendent beauty of pergolas took center stage. Constructed out of smooth lavish stone pillars, the grander and more dramatic the pergola, the better.

However, the interest in these opulent structures soon began to taper off in the 18th century as Naturalistic Gardening increased in popularity. But it soon recovered, making a full comeback in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to Garden Designers Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll.

The Modern Pergola

Pergolas have come a long way since their inception, yet they continue to be erected across countless properties for a wide number of reasons. Shade, aesthetics, and shelter from the elements, continue to take the top spot as the most cited reasons homeowners consider these versatile structures.

Additional uses for pergolas include:

  • Poolside retreat
  • Protection and shade for outdoor kitchen
  • Entryway to home
  • Elevate landscape and garden

While many homeowners still choose to wind vines or other foliage around pergolas, others attach lights and speakers to secure their ultimate outdoor oasis. The materials used to construct pergolas have also shifted, from the costly stone and brick to today’s more affordable timber, aluminum and steel

Benefits of Pergolas

Open roof or closed roof

A pergola with an open roof or a closed roof– the choice is yours!

A pergola with an open roof exhibits cross beams and provides some shade but isn’t exactly functional in rainy weather. A fixed solid roof pergola, on the other hand, can provide shelter from various weather conditions.

From hot sunny days to rainstorms, with a closed roof pergola, you feel confident that you’re fully protected from all the elements.

Get Creative With Customizations

No two pergolas are the same and if you ask us, it’s one of the best things about them. Pergolas provide ample opportunities to customize so that the structure suits you and your unique lifestyle.

Even after it’s installed, there are all sorts of ways you can continue tailoring it to make it your own. Consider adding retractable side screens, slide glass doors, transparent zip screens, or leave the sides open for a never-ending supply of fresh air.

You can even upgrade your custom pergola with additional gadgets like LED lights, speakers, and ceiling fans to instill a cozier vibe.

Protection From the Elements

One of the most cited benefits by far, most people opt for pergolas to take refuge from the hot summer sun. Although, the structure provides more opportunities than just UV-ray and sun protection. You can design a pergola that can shelter your outdoor space from wind, rain, snow, and even hail.

Extend Your Living Space

If you originally installed a deck or patio to extend your living space but are finding that the sun is taking its toll, it may be time to consider a custom pergola. With a pergola on your deck or patio, you can further extend your living space and the amount of time you’re able to spend outside in the hot summer sun. Designed specifically for you and your backyard, a pergola can cast enough shade to make even a hot afternoon enjoyable!

Ready to get started on your custom pergola?

Whether you’re looking for a classically stained garden pergola, or one to provide much-needed shade over your outdoor kitchen, trust Timber Frame for high-quality custom solutions.

Contact us today to get started on your project.

Let's Start
Your Project!

Contact Us