Sunday, March 8, 2009

Timber Framed Houses

It’s been a while that I time to write anything. Making a living and pursuing a hobby that is becoming another full time job, if not an obsession at this point, leave little time for anything else.

I’ve been researching architectural styles mostly, carpentry in residential construction to a lesser degree and how to translate both to miniature structures; also tools and materials.
Researching period styles of architecture is continuously bringing me back to Europe, particularly to medieval and post-Gothic buildings. Increasingly intriguing me are half-timbered houses (“Fachwerk” in German).

I often wondered why these timbers existed in the first place but had no ambition to find out. But, just as we get older, our interests change and suddenly I had to find out what determines the layout of the timbers, why some were curved and why some looked like a Y or X etc. The deeper I was digging for info the more I found out about the history and the entire construction of these truly marvelous structures.

Today, there are roughly 2,000,000 Fachwerk buildings in Germany alone. Many more are found in Switzerland, England and France and some are over 700 years old.

A large concentration of these buildings remains in the greater Southwestern part of Germany and the bordering Switzerland and France. This part of Europe has been prone to seismic activity for centuries, yet these architectural jewels have survived.

As often is the case with research on the web, one thing leads to another and so I just had to find out why Fachwerk buildings are essentially earthquake proof. In modern residential buildings upper floor loads are bearing on the walls below, whereas with Fachwerk the load bearing is on the frame work starting in the basement all the way to the top. The strategic placement of timbers not only gives vertical but lateral strength to the entire framework. The spaces (Gefaecher in German) between the timbers are mostly filled with intertwining branches covered with adobe and only serve the purpose of enclosure.

Far be it from me to replicate such structures with all their intricate artwork and architectural embellishments. My intent is to keep it whimsical and give the impression of those styles by incorporating prominent elements.

Swiss House

Swiss House with Oriel Window

All the while I am committed to using 80% to 90% recycled materials, natural materials and environmentally friendly, namely water based paints and glues.

So, off I go, working on some Fachwerk.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We all have a child within and when we bring it alive it brings us the joy and pleasure of days long gone.

I was probably about 7 or 8 years old, living in Germany, when I had the grand idea of making a doll house from an old shoebox that I found in the attic of my parent’s house.

I cut and glued and painted and drew until I had a perfect little home of my very own with table, chairs, bed and probably other things that are important to an eight year old girl. My parents were impressed because not only did I glue cardboard together, I also cut up fabric to “upholster” my furniture. I was encouraged by my parents to craft and “make things” because they realized I was good with my hands. They thought I should become a home ec. teacher because I was a practically oriented child. That did not come to fruition, however.
After high school and some formal training in civil service, I eventually married, moved to the US and pursued a different path.

Many years later, our family fell on hard financial times. I had a three year old niece whose upbringing I was quite involved with. Barely making ends meet and not having any means to buy Christmas presents, there was no question that the child would take priority and Santa would bring her presents, no matter what.

So one day in October I remembered the shoebox doll house and rescued a large heavy duty box before it went into the dumpster at work.

“What’s the box for?” I was asked when I got home. My response “I’m making a doll house” was met with raised eyebrows, doubtful grins and a couple of drawn out “oh-kaays”. I, however went to work. All supplies were at my immediate disposal at next to no cost because I either already had them, cluttering up my “studio”, or I used materials that were otherwise going in the trash. By mid December my doll house was a fully furnished efficiency apartment that included a tiny replica of our beloved dog Ebony, a Shih-Tzu/Cocker mix who is no longer with us.

That dollhouse was made as much of love as it was made of those ragtag fragments. It also inspired me to create villages inspired by my childhood in Germany and Switzerland.



That is what I do. I sincerely hope you like it. Apparently, the folks at Culture Salad and Blogcritics did. The publicity is cool, but that’s not why I make these villages. I build them because they make me happy, and I hope they may make you happy, too.I am taking great pride in my work and have therefore recently started research in framing roofs and architectural styles of various periods.

More about that in the next post.