An integral part of our curriculum as an architecture student were the ancient builders, buildings and construction techniques of the Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman and other early civilizations. Many years after my days in college, I was able to travel to see some of these architectural wonders, experiencing their scale and magnitude in situ. I am awed at the endurance of the Roman arches.
While arches have existed for roughly 4,000 years, the Romans were the first to effectively employ their use in the construction of bridges, monuments and buildings. The ingenious arch design allows the weight of structures to be evenly distributed along various supports, preventing massive buildings like the Roman Colosseum from crumbling under their own weight. Early engineers improved on arches by flattening the shape to create a segmental arch, repeating them at various intervals. This allowed for the construction of stronger supports in bridges and aqueducts, lending to their ability to create longer spans.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Boone Pickens and master builder Tommy Ford Construction on the Mesa Vista Ranch project that included a bridge and aqueduct, both supported by stone arch construction. The structural design was provided by Pete Hennessey, P.E. who recommended that the project use historic construction techniques that remain relevant today. The bridge and aqueduct are supported by stone arch construction, similar to those built in early civilizations. These types of projects are only possible when all of the professionals involved work successfully as a team from the planning stages and forward into the project. Video of efforts for water and wildlife conservation on Mesa Vista Ranch can be seen below.
The endurance of the Roman arch testifies to the versatility of ancient craftsmen and the continuing purity of their design well into the 21st century.
Below are sketches by Texas architect, Steve Chambers, of early arches and centering (shoring) techniques from the Roman and Gothic periods. Also pictured are examples of modern arches and modern centering done by Tommy Ford Construction at Mesa Vista Ranch. The black and white photo is of the 1911 Monroe Street bridge construction in Spokane, Washington.
Video about Mesa Vista water and wildlife conservation
COLLABORATION ON THE DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF A BED AND TABLE FOR THE J-5 RANCH IN WEATHERFORD, TEXAS
The J-5 is a world-class Cutting Horse Ranch in Parker County, a region often called the "Cutting Horse Capitol of the World." The owner, Daniel Jaeggi and his daughter, Constance, are cutting horse competitors. Chubby Turner, their trainer, a former World Champion and current points leader to become the new World Champion. Chambers Architects integrated three antique buildings into the design of the ranch home: a Revolutionary War-era Scots barn from Schenectady County, New York, and two log homes from the 1800s. The rehabilitation of the antique structures was completed at Heritage Restorations in Waco, Texas and constructed into the home by English Heritage Homes of Texas. “Marriage marks" can still be seen on the timber connections of 1770s antique barn.
As with the other phases of the design and construction of the J-5 Ranch, the team of architect, interior designer and client collaborated to create ‘bespoke’ furniture for the home. Unlike factory made furniture, bespoke design defines and encompasses everything that is unique and individual about the client, in addition to echoing the architecture and historical references of the home. Daniel and his wife, Francesca, are residents of Geneva Switzerland and chose Parker County as the site for the J-5. Once the conceptual drawings provided by Chambers Architects of the furniture were approved, the process for the selection of a craftsman to complete the design began.
Peter Goodchild was selected for the fabrication of the wood pieces because of his appreciation for un-retouched surfaces, patination, minimalist restoration and knowledge of authentic historic furniture making. Peter is descended from three generations of furniture designers and makers in England. His signature aesthetic is to stay as close as possible to historic references, whether he is making Elizabethan or Early Texas style furniture. From remaking horsehair bedding in England at the turn of the 20th century to receiving Royal Commissions, this small family business has a storied history. When King George V died in 1936, leaving the throne to Edward VIII, Edward married Wallis Simpson. The couple moved into the hunting lodge called Fort Belvedere, where Edward signed his abdication papers. Peter’s grandfather refinished all of their furniture, loose covers, carpets and curtains. The Goodchild family shop is located in South Ascot, where the movie industry in the UK often films motions pictures. On one occasion, Gregory Peck called on the Goodchilds to repair a leather seat in his Rolls Royce.
In addition to antique furnishings imported exclusively from England, Goodchild's can create and build unique furniture designs to fit specialized requirements. The workshop offers a full range of restoration and conservation services. Peter Goodchild, is the company president and third generation period furniture restorer and builder.
In the mid-nineteenth century, furniture making in Texas flourished as an art form. Most furniture craftsmen began as cabinetmakers. Two important influences on Texas cabinetmaking were the Anglo-American and German traditions. Texas furniture arts were driven by early Texans’ desire for refinement, gentility and marquetry work. The unavailability of factory-produced furniture due to limited transportation before the arrival of the railroads made custom furniture a necessity. A well-known Swiss German furniture craftsman, Johann Umland, lived in the southeast Texas Hill Country. The bed for the J-5 Ranch master bedroom is based on design created in walnut by Mr. Umland for a Swiss family, the Amslers from Cat Springs, Texas. It is featured in the book, Texas Furniture, Volume 2 by Lonn Taylor and David B. Warren.
Phases of design and fabrication of the master bed for the J-5 Ranch:
1. Research on period furniture
2. Sketches, selection and approval of the design
3. Dimensions and drawings for the furniture maker
4. Creation of a model from cardboard and chipboard to perfect the scale and dimensions
5. Selection of the walnut to be used
6. Decisions on grain and where to place the figured wood
7. Approval of the model
8. Cutting and carving of walnut pieces.
9. Assembly and refinement of the design and carving
10. Selection of color, finishes and patination.
11. Approval of color and finishes on wood samples
12. Application of stains, wax, and finish
13. Delivery to site
14. Assembly onsite
The gallery of photographs below demonstrates the steps that Chambers Architects took to collaborate with the client and furniture maker to develop the design and fabrication of the wood furniture. A future article will detail the fabrication of the wrought iron furniture with blacksmith Caleb Nolen at the Heritage Forge near Elm Mott Texas.
Chambers Architects Visits the Neufeld Collection of Tribal Treasures of Nagaland
When we go to Santa Fe in the summer, we try to catch up with Harry and Tiala Neufeld, ethnographic collectors and dealers who live in Philadelphia. We knew they had a love story nourished by a mutual passion for art the first time we started to converse with them about their work to preserve the design and cultural artifacts of Nagaland.
Through the Neufelds, Chambers Architects became deeply attracted to the art, design, aesthetics, and culture of Nagaland. We care about all dying cultures and, in ten years, there may be nothing remaining of this illustrative society, whose tribes occupy a mountainous state in the northeastern part of India. The Naga culture’s adornment is unsurpassed in terms of individuality and artistry. The breadth of diversity, volume, quality, symmetry and detail are unusual in tribes who possess only primitive tools with which to make their art. It takes strong traditions and dedication to specific design principles to produce textiles, body adornment, costuming, jewelry and basketry of enduring quality and design. With their stripes, grids and zigzagging lines that produce rhythmic geometric patterns, the textiles could have been designed by any number of mid-20th-century Modernists like Anni Albers, or by many of the contemporary artists today. Whimsical hats and headgear fashioned with extensions of spiked and hanging Hornbill feathers, hair and brightly colored materials remind us of the art of the surrealists. Story continues after gallery below.
STEVE CHAMBERS, TEXAS ARCHITECT, VISITS COLLECTIONS THAT TELL STORIES
As part of its corporate mission, Chambers Architects works to preserve culture and history. And to highlight through our blog the people we meet who have the same enthusiasm. This is the second article in a series about an individual intent on historic preservation. Jim Gordon didn’t start out to create a history museum with firearms. In fact, his story is not about firearms at all, but about the history of the people who inhabited this country: Native Americans, lawmen, explorers, Union and Confederate soldiers, ranchers, settlers, Spanish, Mexican, and English. And how they found themselves struggling for something, against all odds, on the frontiers of North America. How he collects and preserves things is more important than any one of the physical objects. His private collection completes an understanding of his country. Story continued in link below gallery...
The gallery below: photos of the extensive collection of paraphernalia from the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the gear and journals of explorer and travel writer, George Frederick Ruxton, who wrote about America's expansion during the policy of Manifest Destiny; a Bowie knife owned by a Mexican General who fought at the Alamo; firearms and military equipment from the French and Indian Wars; the gear of Western trappers, traders, and ranchers; curator Jeff Hengesbaugh; Native American and Spanish Colonial artifacts; an extensive collection of Red Ryder BB guns and collectible toys.
CHAMBERS ARCHITECTS VISITS HISTORIAN JEFF HENGESBAUGH IN GLORIETA, NEW MEXICO
Chambers Architects went to Albuquerque to hunt for ethnographic artifacts and photography of the American West and Native American peoples to complete our interior design for a ranch west of Fort Worth. In addition to the acquisition of these artifacts, we found an amazing portal to U.S. history through the stories of historian, Jeff Hengesbaugh. This visit confirmed what we already know about sustainable interior design: surround yourself with objects that have meaning to you, creating an environment that continuously feeds your soul.
We managed a couple of quick-step dance moves in our approach to the counter of The Calabaza booth at the Southwestern Antiques Market in Albuquerque. Hengesbaugh needed a wide swath to speak to the cadre of collectors gathered to hear his energetic stories. Utilizing his vast collection of Bowie knives, rifles, saddles, and trapper wardrobe, this historian and researcher is breathing new life into the history of the pioneer westward movement across the American plains, deserts, and mountains.
In this first gallery are primarily photos of the outside of the home and outer buildings. The wagons in the front yard are often employed for movies made in New Mexico. One of the colorful artifacts is a Day of the Dead parade float, in addition to many Spanish Colonial antiques and artifacts.
PRESERVING WINDMILLS: RESTORATION OF A TEXAS ICON
Windmills are vital symbols of American history and still perform an important role on the prairies, farms and landscapes throughout the United States. They are a signature symbol of westward expansion and the development of the American built environment. In the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century, windmills provided water and powered the life of many ranches and homesteads. “From 1897 until 1956, the windmill was the only source of water for most ranches,” said Jim Collums, professional windmill restorer. Before the advent of the rural electrical coop grid, the ‘mills’ were also used as wind chargers, charging batteries so that isolated farms could run direct current for lighting and other uses.
Windmill restoration, the art of taking antique and worn-out windmills and bringing them back to life, is a skill and interest that few people have. One special man is Poteet resident Jim Collums, the same Jim Collums who co-owns the Poteet Country Winery in Central Texas. Jim restores these vintage structures, and at the same time, makes a significant contribution to the sustainable environment, where water is scarce and its supply unpredictable.
Among Collums’ latest restoration projects is an antique windmill near Ft. Stockton, Texas, the Canon Ranch Railroad Eclipse Windmill. The windmill pumps water into an 80 ft. x 5 ft. deep pila (Spanish for basin), which sits on top of a mountain. This windmill is the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States, still standing over an existing well. This particular type is known as a “railroad” windmill, because it was designed for the railroads to pump water for steam engines. So unique is this windmill that the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, sent engineers to the site to record the windmill's measurement and weight. The grand structure is a windmill with a 22-1/2 ft. diameter and a 50 ft. tower. The Eclipse-type windmill was one of the more successful mills used to pump water in the nineteenth century United States.
“I used fresh rawhide, which holds the blade steady. We cut the rawhide into strips and wrap the blades with the hide,” said Collums, who is a stickler for accuracy, making sure the finished windmill captures its glory days. “I studied its history and used the same type of nails as the original, in the same spots and the same bolts.”
Wind energy has been used for centuries. Ancient records show sailboats of the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Greeks, and the ancient Egyptians. The Vikings used their sailboats to cross the North Atlantic and to explore the coasts of Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and North America. Sail power soon became the main propulsion system for the world's water transportation for many hundreds of years and became the great transformer of the world's economy--and is still used for many essential conveyances today.
Wind power was also harnessed to help grind grains (thus, the term "Wind Mill") and to pump water. The windmills of Europe--and the famous windmills of the Netherlands in particular--are fine examples of these ancient inventions, where windmills often pump water out of the lowlands. Today, wind power is also being used for more than propulsion and pumping water. It’s one of the important alternative sources used to generate electricity.
We ask Jim what inspires him to restore these romantic symbols of western rural life. He smiles and says, “I remember spending time with my grandmother in West Texas as a young boy. The water pumped from her windmill was cool. Every morning she would place a yoke on her shoulders and balance a bucket on each side. She milked the cows and used the mill water to cool the milk in the buckets and turned it into butter. She didn’t drive, so she traded the butter for store-bought goods with her neighbors.”Sustainable practices, the conservation and collaborative use of resources, have been a good idea for centuries.