19 January 2010

Architectural Opinions

It is funny how the more you learn about a specific topic, the more you can become highly opinionated about it. I love traveling. One of the main reasons that I love traveling is because I love to see the architecture. I love to see the styles of the buildings, imagine what it would be like to construct some of these buildings during the time that they were erected (large stones....400+ years ago...how?), I love to see the different little details included (such as unique downspouts that we saw in the Czech Republic) or the colors used (entire buildings painted green). It it just amazing walking down a street and seeing buildings that are hundreds of years old each crafted with an eye for detail.

I just finished reading the book New Old House by Ed Knapp and while I wouldn't necessarily praise this book as having any literary value nor especially unique viewpoint (what was written could have easily been a magazine article rather than an entire book), I would praise the general theme that is emphasized throughout. Mr. Knapp's company reclaims lumber and uses it in new structures. He values the wood (old growth and already aged wood) as well as the original process of craftsmanship in milling and using the wood. Methods such as tongue and groove or mortise and tenon, mark many of the large beams that he dismantles and then uses again in new buildings. He often dismantles old barns that are falling down but reclaims all of the usable timbers and cleans and stores them for new projects giving new life to the barn.

Upon finishing this book, I immediately picked up the book Bungalow Details: Interiors which is written with an obsessive look at restoring Bungalow houses. Even though the author has a sense of humor about old houses and the process of restoring them, she brings to light and life the uniqueness and beauty of living in an old house. After each chapter, I wander around my 1908 Craftsman (maybe Bungalow) and enjoy the details. I learn to love each detail as my understanding of it grows. For instance, I love learning little things like why old glass is wavy and that the set of windows above my dining room window seat is called ribbons. I look at the posts of my front porch and notice that the inlay pattern of the wood is reminiscent of the inlay pattern on the newel posts of my banister going to the 2nd story.

So what is all this rambling about? I suppose I am just forewarning you that if you talk to me about old houses that I am slowly becoming more of a traditionalist (what could also be known as a snob) and that I am becoming more and more opinionated about what should or shouldn't be done or how. For instance, I will never again take out the old windows in my house and put in vinyl nor will I rip up or cover over wood floors even if they aren't perfect. I won't put a modern fireplace in and tear out my wood burning fireplace as this is the heart of the bungalow. Things like this now dominate my mind when looking at or thinking about old houses.

The top picture is of a castle in the Czech Republic and contains a unique detail that is called: sgraffitto. This process is when a first layer of stucco is placed on the exterior of a building, allowed to dry, and then a second layer that is different in color is placed over it. There is a special etching process that is carved through this second layer to reveal the first layer beneath. These sgraffitto etchings are all over the country and vary in detail. Often they look like 3D bricks but then when closer examination is used, have different designs on each and every one. Some buildings contain stories of the Bible laid out in pictures and others have Greek or Roman myths in pictures. Many of these buildings remain in their original detail (some dating back to the 1300's) and many have been restored. Yet there are still a lot of buildings that were painted over in the last 4-500 years because the artwork was considered old or boring and white stucco was painted over these large murals of work. It is nice to see that people are restoring these pieces not just for their historical or artistic value but because that is the way that they were made originally. We always think we have a better way of doing things today than we did before and in many respects, we have learned a lot through technology, science, research and time. But often we too easily discard the past in favor of what is modern, convenient or trendy.

Manifesto finished....but what are your opinions strong about? It is hard to go through this world without forming them.

1 comment:

MGrimm said...

Since we also live in an old house, I have found a special truth: You do not live in the house on your terms, you live in the house on its terms, embracing its character, its faults, its history and its charm...it's a much more intimate existence:)