Monday, December 14, 2009

'Strong' mouldings and falling water

The plates and comments are from Asher Benjamin's, Th,e American Builder's Companion, published in 1797 in Greenfield, Massacchusetts. These are from the reprint by Applewood Books, Bedford, Mass.

The top picture is Benjamin's description of Plate I.

Plate I is below.

Asher Benjamin is the only writer I know of who discusses why to use one molding instead of another. I have added some comments.

" The ovolo and ogee, being strong in their extremities are fit for supports; the cimarecta and cavetto, though improper for that purpose, as they are weak in the extreme parts, and terminate in a point, are well contrived for coverings to shelter other members;"*
  I love that he asked me, the reader, to see if a molding seems to convey a feeling of strength or shelter. It's only a shape - a bit of trim casting a shadow, if there's enough light.

 "... the tendency of their outline being very opposite to the direction of falling water, which, for that reason, cannot glide along their surface, but must necessarily drop." *
  This last piece of his sentence is one reason I think Benjamin's books were so successful. Not only was he explaining to the carpenter how to think about how a specific molding would communicate an idea, a sense of a building's character, he was reminding the reader of the basic problem of construction: keeping water away.

Asher Benjamin doesn't forget the important stuff: Successful buildings need to do everything at once: delighting the eye while also keeping us dry and comfortable.

*Both of these quotes come from page 27 of The American Builder's Companion, Asher Benjamin, Sixth Edition; Reprint by Dover Publications, Inc. NY, 1969.

1 comment:

Jane said...

yes indeed, Wikipedia has some fine pictures! type in ogee, cavetto...Benjamin's drawings have more character though.