Recovery of Craft
Tim Andersen Architect
A recovery of historic building traditions has quietly flourished in recent years as designers and craftspeople relearned the nature of craft and appropriate expressions for specific periods and styles. Through expedience and neglect much traditional knowledge had been lost. It is a delight to see traditional skills making a comeback, and explored by a new generation. Advocates of the Arts & Crafts era (1900-20) called this the "thinking hand of craft," an apt expression for engaged and meaningful work. Here are some recent examples of both restorations and new work.
The 18th and 19th centuries were a world of bricks. See how pavings, stairs, facades and chimneys, all of the mason's skills, were everywhere apparent.
18th century curb appeal was a flourish of Classical detail at entry to set the tone and expectations for interior.
This entry is a virtuoso performance of craft: the stonework, portico with boards shaped into an apse, delicate lanterns...
Stairs were often the most elaborate carpentry in a house. Just inside the entry, it was a good place to show off.
The appeal of craft includes an appreciation for complexity, and satisfaction in recognizing something beautifully resolved.
Colonial revival entry was adapted from 17th C sources. Door with its solid raised panels floats within glass sidelites and transom, defeating both security and privacy. Revivals recall historical precedent, but adapt it for more secure times.
This spectacular new house is an affront to modernists who claim we cannot revive classical tradition or meet earlier standards of quality.
Restorations like these along Edgartown's High Street showcase Classical design and its craft traditions. Fueled by wealth, traditions here have been largely recovered.
Preindustrial vernacular traditions in Pennsylvania were a rich brew of German, English, Dutch and Swedish. When adapted to local materials and learned Classicism, they produced a unique building tradition.
Fieldstone in early New England was a nuisance for farmers, and stacked into boundary walls. Surviving stone structures seem emblematic of the region's early character: stoic, practical, rooted and strong.
CCH Custom Deerfield Colonial
If you can accept the simple shape and small footprint of a colonial house you may have some money left over to develop authentic details.
Pierced soffit vents below eave create an appealing pattern-- so much better than strip vents severing entablature.
Duncan's swan neck pediment rises above the entry like a bird from the lake.
This is a convincing reproduction of a modest Arts & Crafts interior. Since west coast bungalows (c. 1910) often used less expensive flat grain fir, it seems most authentic choice.
Symmetrical cut-outs in slats give shape to negative space, suggesting turned balusters. Nothing prevents traditionalists from inventing.
Elegance of simple, well conceived objects is apparent here in terra cotta pots, woven baskets, ladders and wheelbarrow-- all worthy of display.
This new house has revived integrity of historic design, authentic materials, and solid craftsmanship.
Built into a hillside this addition shows complete mastery of traditional details, from dormers to masonry, to roofing, flashings and gutters.
This lovely pegged scarf joint is pure extravagance, as if to say, "Look, we are still capable!"
Window and transom lites match and align! This no-brainier is often well beyond window manufacturers. They combine standard units, while a craftsperson sees every detail in relationship to the whole.
Evergreen Carriage Door
These lucky garage doors have handsome vertical lites. Many garage doors are only 7 feet high, and lites end up flat. Think upright golden rectangles!
Cedar shingles are so beautiful on the coast where salt air bleaches them silver gray.
There is no substitute for real cedar shingles. No manufactured product has the same character and charm as silvered shingles.
Yankee Moderns of the Chesapeake have created a suitable home for this lovely dory. Much of this firm's work is elegantly crafted.
No one sets out to do shoddy work, but expedience and low standards may prevail if no one resists.
This new Greek revival portico has been built with infinite care, patience, and resources-- confident that future generations will care.
Decorum is a concept with few advocates today, yet appropriateness of behavior, propriety, respect and civility to others are all values we depend on daily.
A delicately crafted lantern is like jewelry on a house, and most effective sparingly used.
It is true authentic materials cost more initially, but they last longer and in the long run will be less expensive to maintain.
Model for pair of doors was in historic church. They have been beautifully reproduced.
Greek Revival head casing recalls primitive stone lintels supported by upright stones. Think Stonehenge.
New spiral stair is elegant. Treads are formed checker-plate and simple rods close risers. The Shakers would be impressed.
Unexpected flat blue-green wash on shutters seems a perfect complement to rusty orange stone.
Batten door was simply cut out of siding. Expedient solutions are not necessarily poorly crafted.
Craftspeople once had more authority over their work, and sometimes contributed whimsical designs.
When a building culture is transplanted to a new locale, the impulse is romantic. Original models cannot really be replicated, and, inevitably, the tradition becomes something new and imaginative.
New Spanish colonial revival houses in Santa Barbara are linked to a romantic revival of the 1920s. While style persisted, only recently has the level of craft recovered.
Recent Provence revival farmhouse is convincing. Details like the Genoise eave, plank shutters and iron grille are authentic.
Local building culture has been revived by this remarkable Atlanta area firm. In this new house we find perfect proportions, handmade brick, elegant details, authentic materials and colors.
Once craft skills are recovered, our communities cannot be far behind. These are all new buildings.