Fabula Lignarius

Month: November, 2014

Frames in The Fall

Last weekend we went on a little trip to the Vosges, a mountainous region in north-east France. We wanted to go hiking and explore the region a bit while enjoying the colors of the fall and the flavored air in the woods.

The weekend was great and although I had no intention of going on a timber frame sightseeing trip we encountered several interesting timber framed buildings. I have to admit that very few of them really adhere to my personal taste in traditional architecture. Nonetheless I liked how they contributed to the character and atmosphere of the places we visited. It is lovely to be surrounded by these buildings and to imagine the craftsmen who built them. What was going trough their minds while building these houses, we can only guess. There were many interesting regional structural details that I would have loved to investigate closer.

Aesthetic taste aside here are some worth sharing. I will leave it up to you to come up with some more comments.

This little building was the first I noticed when driving into La Petite-Pierre. it’s crookedness was undeniable.

La Petite-Pierre crooked

Note the dovetail connection with the wallplate. You could say the building is suffering from some minor structural ‘issues’.

dovetail to wallplate

Judging from the old castle of La Petite Pierre and some of the townhouses surrounding it I am sure that it’s builders were very competent at their craft.

Returning home we drove trough PetersBach and noticed this beautiful timber frame which is for sale by the way. I liked the way the bracing was done and had not seen this style before.

 

Petersbach timberframe

The jettied covered walkway is just one feature which makes this house pretty attractive. In France they are referred to as encorbellement.

Petersbach covered walkway

On our way down south we drove trough Germany where we spent the night to break up the journey. Our host told us about a place called Bernkastel Keus that supposedly would have some beautiful wooden houses. That’s all he needed to say to trigger my curiosity about the place so we stopped there on our way home to my great pleasure.

Bernkastel-Keuse is a quite an astonishing place on the banks of the Mosell in between the grape fields, the heart of Germanys wine country. The market place is impressive to say at least, you are surrounded by all these timber frames with elaborate bracings. I certainly didn’t know where to look first.

Bernkastel market

You turn around and you see this.

Bernkastel corner

Or this..

Bernkastel

Many of them where seriously out of plumb. Gravity had partnered with time pushing them slowly over to one side. It all added up to the fairytale atmosphere.

Bernkastel

The cutest little house is neatly tucked away in a rather dark corner of the market place. Appropriately called ‘Spitzhauzen’ anno 1416.

spitzhauschen

Also this house is leaning to the left and in reality much more then this picture illustrates. The cantilevered beams that carry the jetty protrude twice as much to one side, unequally dividing the weight of the upper story and roof. Very charming but I am sure that even after 600 years it is still moving and one day it may kiss the building across the street…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Wood, Truly

I decided to begin this post with the last paragraph because I know that posts are not always read entirely. 

There might only be a couple of hundred people who will read this post in the next days but I can only hope that some or maybe just one of them will be inspired and set up something similar. This past initiative is a school example of what we need. An ongoing conversation between different fields of expertise instead of just hanging out with the same old group on our own little islands running around in circles. The positive effect on everyone involved in this symposium is not to be underestimated. It creates awareness about what others, whose professions are based around the same material -wood- are doing. Without this awareness we cannot truly appreciate their work, our vision becomes limited and we see only wat is right in front of us.

Are you interested yet? Then please keep reading it only gets better.

In the past I have often experienced a gap between the academic world and the world of craftsmen. Sometimes it’s small but sometimes it’s so big it seems impossible to overcome. A recent experience has drastically changed my point of view and I wonder whether this gap is just an illusion and if it only exists because we allow it to?

Last month I found myself in Montpellier (which by the way is lovely and worth a visit) attending a weeklong symposium about wood sciences and wood crafts that created a cross perspective between Europe and Japan. I was invited as a guest speaker and was happy that my presentation was scheduled for the first day so I had the rest of the week to meet people and enjoy all the demonstrations and presentations.

The symposium was simply amazing and even more than a month later I am still trying to digest all the things I have learned. The best things about such a symposium are all the great people you meet and the conversations and opportunities that arise from those encounters. Let me share some impressions to give you an idea what it was like.

Here you see Takeda-san assembling a small display cabinet. All joinery, no glue or metal hardware, the work speaks for itself.

Takeda assembly

An immense amount of information was shared. For example I learned a lot about how elasticity in woods work and how it evolves over time. Many aspects regarding the quality of wood that could be described as common knowledge for some craftsmen  are confirmed or backed up by science and often the research performed adds new perspectives which in their turn can be applied consciously by craftsmen to enhance the quality of their work.

Samad Zare Mohazabiyeh an Iranian lutes Tar and Setar Maker. It turned out that he is not only a talented instrumentmaker but also a gifted musician who amazed me with his tranquil tunes.

Samad Zare Mohazabiyeh

It would take weeks to write down a synopsis of all the presentations but if you look at the program you can imagine the vast amount of knowledge that was present within all the participants. Pictures won’t tell anything about the content of the presentations so you have to take my word for it when I say that there was a lot to learn. Almost too much but you can’t consider that as a negative aspect.

Everyone I talked to was excited about the event and happy to be part of it. You will read more about some of the craftsman I met  on this blog in the near future.

With all the instrument makers and musicians around there was no lack of music during the nights.

Iris et Takeda-san

I should mention Iris Brémaud and Pierre Cabrolier who reached out and made a tremendous effort to bring everyone together from all these different disciplines. They did something that was selfless and not just serves the purpose of just one group or community. Instead they took up the task of bringing together an interdisciplinary group and set up the foundation for one of the most interesting conversations one can have. Conversations that actually matter, an exchange of knowledge and better mutual understanding that benefits everyone involved without compromise.

There might only be a couple of hundred people who will read this post in the next days but I can only hope that some or maybe just one of them will be inspired and set up something similar. This past initiative is a school example of what we need. An ongoing conversation between different fields of expertise instead of just hanging out with the same old group on our own little islands running around in circles. The positive effect on everyone involved in this symposium is not to be underestimated. It creates awareness about what others, whose professions are based around the same material wood, are doing. Without this awareness we cannot truly appreciate their work, our vision becomes limited and we see only wat is right in front of us.

So if you ever have the chance to bring people together in a similar way, don’t hesitate! It will be a lot of work no doubt and  I am aware that not everyone has time to spare to set up an event like that but no one says you have to do it alone.

Below is a newspaper article which gives another impression of the event.

Article WoodSciCraft-MidiLibre-17-09-14