Discover The Book: Simple Rules: What the Oldtime Builders Knew by Shannon Scarlett

Simple Rules: What the Oldtime Builders Knew

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Simple Rules is a new kind of builder handbook / design guide.

Inspired by long forgotten sources, the design content included
here--timeless composition principles, elegant proportional systems,
building techniques and formulas for making buildings more beautiful--is
intended as a guide for the modern builder who cares about aesthetics
and meaning as much or more than the bottom line.

In this small guide a few select concepts and techniques,
salvaged mostly from 18th, 19th and early 20th century builder pocket
references and architectural guides, have been resurrected and
abridged--or interpreted where possible--for practical use by the 21st
century architect and homebuilder.
Simple building principles and conventions included here were used in
the past to make places that were at once familiar and meaningful,
sensible and beautiful.

The design concepts are equally
applicable to modern design. In fact, they are intended to serve as
archetypes for a new modern architecture, to free builders from the need
to simply replicate old styles.

Sample Rules:

simple RULE 1

"All architecture should possess strength, utility, and beauty."
~Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
Strength arises from
carrying down the foundations to a good solid bottom, and
from making a proper choice of materials without parsimony. †
Utility arises from a
judicious distribution of the parts, so that their purposes be duly
answered, and that each have its proper situation.
Beauty is produced by
the pleasing appearance and good taste of the whole, and by the
dimensions of all the parts being duly proportioned to each other.

†parsimony: economy of means, cost-cutting

~Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
De Architectura, Book

"As one principal figure should always stand out as the foremost,
which all subordinate purposes should contribute and lend their aid. "

simple RULE 5

"Always keep in mind the perspective appearance when designing the
exterior of a detached building, and not merely the front elevation."
~ Richard Brown, Architect

"From every possible view a really good building must have balance..."
~ Talbot Hamlin
equal distribution of detail and composition front and side, same roof form repeated, smaller side porch compliments front porch

"...imagine the building as it appears to a person walking all around
it... From every possible view a really good building must have balance,
and this accounts for the comparative failure of some of our informal
American country houses.
They seem manifestly to be designed with one view point, or two, in
mind; from these points they are good, perfect in balance and
composition, but from other points the same buildings are a mere
hodge-podge, and they lack that little accent on the centre of balance
given by a chimney or flower box, or some little point of interest, that
would have made the whole seem balanced and in repose."

~ Talbot Hamlin
The Enjoyment of Architecture

simple RULE 10

"Masses on one side of an interesting pivotal feature must have
counterbalancing masses on the other side; shapes and positions of the
masses themselves affect the balance."
~ Talbot Hamlin

"First, a heavy member close to that interesting feature which expresses
the centre of balance--the pivot, as it were--will counterbalance and
be balanced by a long, low, lighter member further from that point.

Secondly, the shapes and positions of the masses themselves affect
the balance. A member that projects forward always seems heavier than a
receding member.

The best place on an "L" type building for the centre of interest is
on the long side, near the angle, (the projecting wing, nearer the eye,
seems heavier than the rest, requires a longer portion to balance it.)"


Shannon Scarlett

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