These are the columns in question.
Construction was begun on a building next to a castle, but before it was completed, the man overseeing the project died and another man took up the project. His idea was to create a large open area for the building. But the people in charge were worried that the open area needed more support, and they insisted that four more stone columns be added to the design. The man said the columns were unnecessary. Eventually, however, he relented, and built the columns.
But to prove he was right, the columns were constructed so they did not touch the ceiling, and were merely decoration.
The building is Windsor Guildhall in the UK. The architect - although the profession did not formally exist at the time - was Sir Christopher Wren, who completed the building in 1690. Wren was a well-respected scientist and architect, a contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal and Robert Hooke.
There has been shrinkage, whether deliberate or not.
But is this story true? It sounds good - stupid clients don't follow the advice of a smart architect, who does what he wants anyway.
Yet even if it is a legend, there's definitely a gap today between the columns and the ceiling, and the building has stood for over 300 years.
Wikipedia - Windsor Guildhall>>
Wikipedia - Christopher Wren>>