Friday, June 22, 2012


When recreating the illusion of an English country village during Britain’s Renaissance, it is desirable to try and simulate the architecture of the times. In the mid-1600’s, buildings were most often timber frame affairs, which we often think of as the signature style of the times. Since it is impractical to transport and erect an actual timber frame structure for only several weekends a year, the next best thing is to try and recreate it using present day materials. This is easy enough, but to be successful it is important to understand how timber frame buildings were constructed, because this technique creates a very specific look, one that is all too often recreated incorrectly.

I am sure we have all had the experience of seeing a motel or apartment block that has attempted to recreate itself as an “olde world-y” timber building. This is often done in stucco with boards applied to the surface to simulate timber construction. Timber buildings, often called Tudor, are what we think of when we imagine Olde England, a quaint holiday scene, or even Santa’s house, but creating the effect has a few architectural pitfalls that can be avoided if you understand how timber buildings were actually constructed.

The building technique used in creating a timber building is called Wattle & Daub. A completely finished, freestanding, timber structure is made where vertical columns make up the walls and support the roof, while horizontal and diagonal members stabilized the upright timbers. It is good to remember that the timbers are actually doing all the work supporting the structure and making it stable. Only then are the gaps between the timbers filled to keep weather on the outside of the structure. To do this, twigs and branches (Wattle) are woven between the beams, often in a slot carved into the inner face of each beam. These are then packed with a mixture of mud, clay, straw, and dung (Daub) to act as a sort of plaster.  The timbers would be visible from both the exterior and the interior. In following eras the interior was often coated to hide the timbers inside, creating a “Half Timbered” look.

Most important to remember is that vertical timbers support horizontal timbers, and diagonal timber brace vertical timbers. All too often, faux timber facades ignore this fact and come up with unconvincing results. The biggest mistake is often to create “V” shaped elements that, although decorative, are not at all structural, and can draw attention to the fact that a structure is faked.

No comments:

Post a Comment