building (425)

‘They Said It Was Impossible’: How Medieval Carpenters Are Rebuilding Notre Dame

From The Guardian / The Observer
Kim Willsher

Sat 20 Aug 2022

At Guédelon Castle, the year is 1253 and the minor nobleman, Gilbert Courtenay, has ridden off to fight in the Crusades, leaving his wife in charge of workers building the family’s new home: a modest chateau that befits his social position as a humble knight in the service of King Louis IX.

Here, in a forest clearing in northern Burgundy, history is being remade to the sound of chisel against stone and axe against wood, as 21st-century artisans re-learn and perfect long-forgotten medieval skills.

The Guédelon project was dreamed up as an exercise in “experimental archaeology” 25 years ago. Instead of digging down it has been built upward, using only the tools and methods available in the Middle Ages and, wherever possible, locally sourced materials. Now, in an unforeseen twist of fate, Guédelon is playing a vital role in restoring the structure and soul of Notre Dame cathedral.

Paris’s imposing 13th-century cathedral, a world heritage site, was consumed by fire in April 2019, destroying its complex roof structure, known as La Forêt because of the large number of trees used in its construction. The widespread view was that it would be impossible to rebuild it as it was.

“The roof frame was extremely sophisticated, using techniques that were advanced for the 12th and 13th centuries,” Frédéric Épaud, a medieval wood specialist, tells the Observer.

“After the fire, there were a lot of people saying it would take thousands of trees, and we didn’t have enough of the right ones, and the wood would have to be dried for years, and nobody even knew anything about how to produce beams like they did in the Middle Ages. They said it was impossible.

A number of the companies bidding for the Notre Dame work have already engaged carpenters trained at Guédelon, and more are expected to beat a path to the Burgundy clearing 200km down the autoroute du Soleil from Paris.

It might be quicker and cheaper to turn wooden beams out of a sawmill — especially with French president Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to reopen the ravaged cathedral in 2024 — but you will not find anyone at Guédelon who believes it should be done that way.
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Timber-Frame Gothic Style Church in New Zealand

Hi Lloyd,

Here’s another amazing wooden Gothic style church built in nine months by seven carpenters and a manager in 1866. Old St. Paul’s Wellington. The ceiling timbers are Kauri, a native New Zealand hardwood.

Kind regards,
Bill Choquette
Wellington

P.S.: Been posting infrequently lately due to overwhelming busyness, both personal and professional. Also now deeply into my next book, provisionally titled Live From California, a sort of autobiography, which includes a native Californian’s view of what went on in the ’60s.

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Bruno and Misha’s Greenhouse on Vancouver Island

All wood from beach and hand-split shakes from driftwood cedar. Bruno Atkey’s incredible repertoire of buildings is on display on pp. 74-95 of Builders of the Pacific Coast (my favorite of all my building books).

Everything he does, all the joints, the design, the materials are to me, perfect. A kindred builder.

(My tower is roofed with shakes that Bruno split from driftwood cedar logs and that Misha drove down here in a van about 7 years ago.)


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Remote Living on High Altitude Lake on Xeni Gwet’in Land in Canada

Today I got an email from Jakub Amler in British Columbia, describing a 75-year-old man named Chendi, who has been living on the shores of the high altitude (4200 feet) 50-mile-long glacier-fed Chilco Lake in west central British Columbia for over 50 years. This is on the land of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations tribe. From Jakub (edited):

“It’s hard to believe he has been here for such long period of time since he hasn’t cut down a single tree — for firewood or structures. He collects all his wood, mostly with his rowboat on the wild and windy Chilco lake.

It is totally off grid, no road access. His “truck” is a rowboat which he uses to carry all the logs from the lake. He doesn’t use any power tools (lover of japanese tools, of course), the craftsmanship is unique, his buildings are charming like most of the buildings in your publications.”

Chendi allows people to come stay there (one month minimum), and says:

“Volunteers sleep in simple and old log cabins, carry water, use an outhouse and rustic bath or sweat house. This is a very difficult and isolated lifestyle, requiring volunteers to be physically fit. You cannot function here if you are not up for the challenge. The wind is quite intense for much of the year. It is also as majestic a place as you ever will see.

Kayaks are available with access to pristine wilderness, hiking, rowboat, fishing from a kayak, gathering wild roots and hunting or snaring.

I also only want people who are serious about going forward from this experience to lead a different life. This is not just a place to have an adventure, but a place to learn a meditative lifestyle (yoga). I want people to come here with intention and mindfulness.”

www.workaway.info/en/host/438711758842

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Cottage in Australia Inspired by Our Book Home Work

Hi Lloyd 🙂

I’m a long time reader and lover of your wonderful books — thank you so much for sharing the treasures you find and inspiring so many builders out there. You have a great eye for beauty in natural and built form.

Here is a structure I built inspired by works I have seen in your books (Home Work is still my fave!).

Thanks again for bringing positivity and sharing the joy.

Be well.

Ben Anderson,
Wollongong, Australia

Cuttlefish Cottage: Latest build. About 50 tons of soil on the roof, all glass (apart from louvres) was destined for the crushers, so I built windows and doors to fit the glass. Mud brick walls covered in local white clay ‘paint’ I made, all furniture & kitchen from hard rubbish piles or off ‘Gumtree’ (like Craigslist), local made steel beams (we have a steel mill in town). All hardwood timber from salvage, e-crete floors (using clan, fly-ash & recycled aggregate), trombe wall, passive solar design, vegetable garden on the roof (makes amazing watermelon!!!), solar hot water, amazing ‘landscape tanks’ for retaining walls and water storage combined, outdoor kitchen for our market garden (check out ‘Popes Produce‘ on Instagram/F-book) and heaps more!

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GIMME SHELTER – Summer 2022

To anyone receiving this for the first time, I send these newsletters out every few months. They’re different from social media — old-school in a way — in that they go to a select audience (over 5,000 people now), rather than blasting out into the internetosphere.

If you’re not signed up on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.


Homestead in Spring 2022. See our recent book,
The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

Rolling Homes Is Done!

Back cover

Title spread

After a year and a half, dealing with maybe a hundred contributors, thousands (I kid you not!) of emails, many thousands of photos, the book has pieced itself together, as has been the fashion with our building books. The material provided the content, and the book organized itself as it was put together.

I just received (via expensive air mail from China) the first five copies of Rolling Homes: Shelter on Wheels. 7,000 copies of the book are now en route to the U.S.A. and we expect it to be available in mid-July.

Holding it in my hands, I’m seeing it for the first time. And yes, I am prone to over-enthusiasm, and yes, this is my baby — but I think this is our best building book in years. There’s energy, there’s joy, there’s cleverness and craftsmanship and the spirit of adventure. There’s solid information — and fun. The people shine through.

There are time-tested components recommended by these builders, sometimes in great detail. And there’s inspiration — to create, to build, to get out there, to do something different.

But best … check it out in this 50-page flipbook: shelterpub.com/rolling-homes-sample-flipbook

Attention, reviewers:

Want the full book in flipbook form for review? Write rollinghomes@shelterpub.com, telling us where your review might appear, and we’ll send a link (and send us your address if you’d like us to mail you a copy of the book once printed).

Seeking blurbs:

Can you help us publicize the book? We will send you the flipbook version and if you like it, could you give us a few lines we could use for publicity purposes?


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Off-Grid Cabin

Lloyd Kahn’s books were instrumental in Josh and I creating our very own off-grid cabin. Please consider this an open invitation to visit us anytime! Please see attached photos of our cabin that Josh built entirely by himself, as well some of our favorite treasures!

Peace and copious amounts of blessings upon each and everyone of you for all that you do! Keep up the good work! We love what you’re creating! We look forward to hearing and collaborating with you soon!

Take good care,
Jessica and Josh Courson

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