Sunday, May 06, 2007

Old Meets New

The past week or so the builders have been making numerous "final adjustments" to the frame, making sure each timber was true and properly positioned. Late last week they began joining new framing materials to the old, as you can see in this picture and the following.

This shot was taken standing at the level of the second floor (in the small section that was completed by quitting time Friday). You can see the long horizontal beam of new material along the right. Beams like this will ring the frame at the level of the second floor and it is into these beams that the floor joists will be attached creating the second floor.

This is the small section of the second floor that was completed by Friday afternoon. You can see the opening in the floor where the stairs will descend to the first floor - right above the stairs to the basement.

In this detail you can see that the framers have created notches in the old barn frame and spliced in the new beams. In certain places, these beams will be supported by the addition of L-shaped brackets fashioned out of steel.

This is a *temporary* support bracket. The steel ones are being custom made (I'm told they're finished and ready to be delivered to the site...).

Some might look at all this splicing into the old frame as a degradation of the structure - aesthetically speaking. Actually, this is all a part of the design philosophy behind the whole project, a philosophy that can be summed up in a word: honesty. The basic idea was to bring together old materials and new - and not try to hide either. The parts of the building that are old will be left looking old, and no effort will be made to hide or cover up "imperfections" such as stains, nail holes, empty mortices, and the vestiges of centuries of honest use. Similarly, we will make little or no effort to hide the nature of the new materials that are to be incorporated into the structure in its adaptation to modern usage. For example, the use of the new beams of laminated wood: where these are tied into the old beams they create visual interest. More than simple functionality, the reflect the "honesty" of the building in its new incarnation. The farmers who designed and built the original structure chose their materials based on their functionality and availability, and the use of these honest materials resulted in a building that was aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. My strong opinion is that the beauty of a barn lies in its honesty: it is what it claims to be and nothing more. It is simple, strong, well-thought out and well-built. Materials are not chosen for their ability to impress or dazzle, but for their promise to do their job well and serve for many years. We have "reinvented" this building and given it a new use. Both histories will be showcased in the final product: farmer's sturdy barn and family's modern home. It is both of these stories that makes this building so rich, and both should be open to plain view. Some may like it, others won't. That's OK by me.

No comments: