Pergola: Definition, Construction, Types & Examples

Instructor: Benjamin Truitt

I have worked in higher education since 2008 when I began teaching in remedial ed and teach classes in Humanities, Philosophy, and Sociology. I have a Bachelors Degree from the University of Colorado at Denver in Philosophy with a minor in Theater and a Masters Degree in Humanities.

Since ancient times, architects have been designing pergolas, outdoor structures, that create sheltered spaces in gardens, courtyards and natural landscapes. This lesson explores the elements and different uses of this architectural form.

Pergola: Definition, Construction and Examples


This is Spot, and he would like to spend today outside enjoying the crisp, cool air. However, he would like to also spend the day inside enjoying all the comfort of modern living. If Spot had his way, he'd have you stand by the open door while he looked out at all the squirrel action for the day. Fortunately, with a pergola, Spot can enjoy the sense of being under shelter and still take in the outdoor air, and your home can remain bug free as he relaxes in the shade. As an added benefit, a pergola can also enhance the aesthetic quality of your home!



A pergola is a structure built with columns or posts that support a series of rafters or latticework that serves as a cover for a patio or a promenade (a walkway) that typically connects the garden to the home. The pergola does not have a finished roof and often is used to support vines and plants that provide shade and shelter. In the photo you can see an example of how the rafters are placed and rest on the pergola frame.


Pergola Roof
Pergola Roof

A pergola is constructed using posts or columns that are attached to concrete footing that extends below the frost line. The frame of the pergola can take many forms in order to provide a secure structure, but the rafters (typically built using wooden beams that are plain or decorated) run across the frame spaced about 24-30 inches apart. This provides gaps that are not too far apart for vine growth. If the pergola is built close to the home, the rafters may run from the roof of the home to posts and columns on the outside as shown by the pergola outside the monastery in Crete.

Pergola at Monastery in Crete
Pergola at Monastery in Crete

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