Theses Master's

Comparative Study of Traditional Jointing Techniques of Vernacular Timber Framings in New England, America and Jiangnan, China and Some Applications Conservation Practice

Cao, Manqing

The start point of this comparative study was to understand how vernacular timber houses in New England and Jiangnan in history responded to building tasks with their characteristic framing and jointing techniques. Function of wood joints was taken as the basis for comparison, as it was the fundamental consideration in the design of joints, and quite similar in vernacular buildings from different building cultures. Therefore two buildings - the Horton House and the Yin Yu Tang house - were chosen as the paradigms of traditional vernacular buildings in New England and Jiangnan. Detailed comparisons were made between their framing methods and wood joints, and more importantly, how the joints accomplished their building tasks. After that, the two actual buildings were located in the larger building contexts of the regions they belonged to, to examine the shared characters as well as diversity within each building culture. The basic consideration was still the problem-solving mechanism, and some concepts underlying were discussed.
The comparison study concluded that: the box frame utilizing three-dimensional jointing, the self-supporting triangular roof structure and jointing emphasizing on structural function were the core characters of English timber framing; while structure composed of simple duplication of building components, ingenious joint designs which had more consideration for aesthetics and reinforced the structure only indirectly were essential to timber construction in Jiangnan. This conclusion was then applied to develop a critical thinking about methodologies of wood building conservation, with specific emphasis on practices in China. The conclusions were in two categories: 1. applying some western approaches in Chinese timber framing conservation, such as developing systematic scientific research; 2. revitalizing traditional practices of construction and repairing in China, such as studying past techniques via precise conservation process, identifying and utilizing techniques which are culturally valuable, and training professional craftsmen to recover the glorious beauty as well as physical soundness.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Childs, John D.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 20, 2015