Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Dutch House at Bucksteep Manor by Laurie Smith

 Laurie Smith's book, The Dutch House at Bucksteep Manor, A Geometric Design and 18th Century Hand Tool Workshop covers the workshop he gave in Massachusetts in 2009 for the Timber Framers Guild.  Laurie Smith is a timber framer, historian, and researcher of the use of geometric design in medieval England.
His workshop with Jack Sobon brought together "geometrical design methods and the use of 18th century hand tool techniques for the major timbers". (quote from the foreword of his book, p.iv)

Laurie Smith begins with analysis of the geometry used to design and frame 6 colonial Dutch houses in the Hudson River valley of New York. That understanding, based on measured drawings, became the basis for the frame built at the workshop.

Following the workshop Laurie Smith spoke at TFG's Eastern Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. The frame of the Dutch house had been erected in the hotel auditorium, but Laurie did not refer directly to it, the course, or the research he had done to prepare. Instead he spoke about his work in England and Wales. It was fascinating.

I attended the conference specifically for his talk as I had read his articles in Timber Framing, the TFG  journal. Later we began to correspond by e-mail. Our latest conversations have been about the Old First Church and the Luykas Van Alen House, both of which I have written about in this blog.

The drawings in the book of the regulating lines, the circle geometry of the 6 houses are clear and beautiful. For me they are a tutorial.
The measured drawings are also a gift. I am very familiar with colonial houses in eastern New England where I spent most of my life. I do not know as well the Dutch framing used in these 6 houses. It is similar to what I see in the part of the Hudson River watershed where I live today. Drawings such as these are not easy to come by, so I am reading them carefully. My thanks to Jack Sobon for the documentation.

For more information, and some pictures, about Laurie Smith and his work see:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

wing for a 1980's tract house

People often come to me for help because they like their neighborhood, their yard. It's just the house that doesn't work!

This family was active in the community and often had family come for extended visits. Their neighborhood was quiet, wooded, and close to public transportation.They wanted more space for gathering, a better kitchen, a second garage, and better access to their flat side yard.

The addition is the gambrel roofed wing on the right. Its lower profile allows the front door to still be - visually - in the center of the house. The house would have been unbearably long if the main house roof had simply been extended. We added a faux roof at the entrance for emphasis. Zoning setback requirements nixed a covered front porch.

The floor plan was conventional: center entrance with living room to the left, dining room to the right, kitchen straight ahead. This family had already renamed the rooms to reflect their actual use: library to the left, family/craft room to the right, and the inadequate eat-in kitchen to the rear.
So we moved the kitchen into the new wing - and opened up space for a spacious dining room.

 Now the view from the front door is to the welcoming open dining room with the rear deck just beyond.The new wing 'bumps' into the back yard to provide a year round sunny breakfast/work room.

Today, 10 or so years later, I think I should have suggested a lower deck to transition down to the back yard more gracefully - less steps between levels makes the rise seem smaller, less daunting.

My job here was not to fix the flaws - the second floor windows will never be balanced. It was to help this family do what mattered to them more easily while keeping their house visually appealing. A box with the requested spaces and square feet simply attached to the house could have served. But it would have been awkward, a lump. It would not have added value to their property as my design did.

And, yes, that rear extension is passive solar. It is the sunny room in a house shaded by tall trees. It provides a sheltered corner, a sun pocket, for the deck, extending its use in spring and fall.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Old First Church, Bennington, part 2

Here is the diagram for the 'leaves' in the fanlight over the main door to the church.

I include the picture of the fanlight again to make the comparison easier. The diagram for the scallops is in the previous post.

Laurie Smith, timber framer, historian - and the most knowledgeable person I know about the use of circle geometry in medieval design and construction - provided the answer.

 Here is his solutions, drawn by me.

The 'first circle'  creates the fan light. It is in the center.
The expansion of the daisy wheel I have drawn before.

For clarity I have drawn the defining lines in red on the lower half of the first circle. The upper half of the circle - the fan light -  is outlined. On that half I have shown only the leaf part of the pattern.

The center lines (A) define the center points on the daisy petals around the first circle which create the inner hexagon - drawn in red.  The center lines (B) run through the petals of the first circle and the outside circles. Where they cross the hexagon is the center of the circles which create the leaves!

You can see that the red circles cross. If continued they make daisy wheels. Not very complicated, except for where the proportions began.

Thank you, Laurie. The next post will be about you and your book, The Dutch House at Bucksteep Manor .