Monday, January 28, 2013

carpenter squares in 1503

Here are carpenter squares in use in the early 16th century in Germany.

The print comes from Robert Lawlor's Sacred Geometry, Philosophy and Practice, p. 7. The wood cut by Gregor Riesch is from his book Margarita Philosophical, published in Baden,1503. Lawlor's description reads:

"Geometry as a contemplative practice is personified by an elegant and refined woman, for geometry functions as an intuitive, synthesizing, creative yet exact activity of mind associated with the feminine principle. But when these geometric laws come to be applied in the technology of daily life they are represented by the rational masculine principle: contemplative geometry is transformed into practical geometry."

I add this to the posts on carpenter squares, geometry, and regulating lines to follow up on some ideas I'm thinking about.

a) Carpenter squares were in regular use centuries before Silas Hawes of Shaftsbury, Vermont, made his first steel square in 1815, beginning what became The Eagle Square Co. Local lore wants Hawes to be the inventor of the carpenter square, but it isn't so.

b)The practice of geometry has since its beginning been an intellectual, philosophical process - 'contemplative' in the words of Lawlor - as well as a practical skill called Practical Geometry.

c) The intertwining of design - contemplative and theoretical  - and practice in construction unraveled during the Industrial Revolution. As the master-carpenter and master-mason evolved into the separate professions of architect, engineer, and builder each lost parts of the knowledge and skills, as well as the understanding and appreciation of what the others was doing.

d) Notes added 1/7/2019:
The woodcut is a wonderful window into geometry, crafts, tools, even education in late Middle Ages.
The woman is using a compass,  a tool that historians often overlook.
The famous Geometers (Google it!) were men - some of our best thinkers: Plato, Archimedes, Pythagoras, etc., not 'contemplative' nor 'feminine' as Robert Lawlor writes. I would describe them excellent, theoretical, logical, careful thinkers who also understood how to use Geometry for Practical purposes..
The word 'feminine' has little relevance in a discussion about Theoretical and Practical Geometry.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Old First Church Geometry - the plans - Part 1

The Old First Church in Bennington, Vermont, was designed using the geometry of circles.

This is a simple introduction.

Here is the cross section (interior view facing east) of the church.

Measured drawings of the church were done in the 1930's by Denison Bingham Hull, the architect who oversaw the renovation of the church removing the Victorian overlay which obscured its original form.  He, the minister, Vincent Ravi Booth, and the workmen worked closely together to restore and rebuild the interior.

Here is the circle with its six overlapping circles with the 'daisy wheel' and the box and roof of a building frame set within the daisy wheel outlined  in red. This pattern has been documented on enough different buildings that I think it can be considered a commonly known layout.

Here is the Old First Church Section set within the daisy wheel.
The center of the circle is the Bible. Not the pulpit or the minister.

In medieval English construction, the builder (master mason/ master carpenter) often left
 a visual note, indicating how he used geometry to design the structure. As I explore the designing of the Old First Church I wondered if the pattern in the fan light over the main door was not also a guide to the design of the church.
I explored the geometry of the fanlight in this post.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Designing the Old First Church, an introduction

What determined the design of the Old First Church?
What did Lavius Fillmore consider first?

Much was already determined.
Glenn M. Andres in his article, "Architectural elegance: Lavius Fillmore's Refinement of the New England Meeting House", The Walloomsack Review, the journal of the Bennington Museum,  Volume 2, October 2009, says the church committee drew up the plan: The meeting house would be "70 feet by 52 feet with porch, cupola and tower". The framing system was timber post and beam. His partner, Oliver Abel, would be the carpenter and joiner.  The layout was the usual:  1) A two story meeting space - the sanctuary - with a raised pulpit for sermons. Families sat on the main floor. The balconies had sections for young men, young women, servants, people of color, and prisoners, and 2) An entry - the porch - for protection against the weather, for late comers and after meeting mingling.

In the drawing, the porch is under the the steeple, the sanctuary itself to the right. Note the dome over the center.

This church in 1805 felt the congregation itself, the gathered body of those who believed, to be its focus. Church services were held in the morning and continued in the afternoon on Sunday. The minister's sermons could be 2 hours long. The congregation often spoke as well. The acoustics of the space were thus very important.

 Could  Lavius Fillmore create an interior where the minister could preach, the congregation participate, and everyone hear? The traditional solution had been a sounding board - a six ft. diameter solid wood wheel that hung about 4 feet above the preacher to bounce his voice out toward the people in the pews.
Fillmore had been experimenting with acoustics in the churches he built in Connecticut, constructed domes of various shapes to bounce the sound. Here in Bennington he could try again.

Note that the dome is not a semi-sphere. Its cross section is an ellipse. A half circle would bounce the sound from a speaker to only one place, as a mirror does light. An ellipse could send the sound in many different directions. And so it does. Today, 200 years later, someone speaking in the church can be heard by everyone else, whether that speaker is in the pulpit or in a pew.

This dome, its shape, placement, and support seems to me to be to be the place where the design began.

The sanctuary is a wonderful space to hear music. In 1805, singing was mostly a cappella. Instruments were hand held - flute, viola, harp, horn, drum - no organ or piano. Hymn writing and singing was just beginning. I am not sure music would have been considered in the design.

The illustration is "Measured Restored and Drawn by Denison Bingham Hull, Architect". Hull was  the architect who restored the building in 1936.