Applying The Detail Patterns

THIS section of the book consists of three illustrated narratives. These describe the process of designing the key details of specific building projects in wood light framing, architectural concrete, and brick veneer on a midrise concrete frame. The intent is to show how one architect, the author, goes about designing the details of a building and to reveal something of his concerns, his mode of thought, and his way of working. Throughout these narratives, special emphasis is given to showing how the detail patterns are a natural part of the detailing process. Pattern names are given in bold italic so that they are readily identifiable.

Designing details is not a neat, linear, fully logical operation. Like any design process, it is engagingly messy and complex. It involves false starts, wrong turns, mental blocks, dead ends, backtracking, and moments ol despair— as well as purposeful progress, intelligent decisions, creative synthesis, and gratifying moments of inspiration, insight, and triumph. These narratives, though they display many of these twists and turns, have been simplified a good deal to reduce their length and to make them easier for the reader to follow. The drawings, similarly, have been cleaned up and reduced in number from the innumerable freehand scribbles, countless tracing paper overlays, and smudged, densely overdrawn sections that are the usual interim products of the detailer. An attempt has been made to relate the drawing styles on these pages to the qualities of the actual drawings that the detailer produces along the way, starting with freehand pencil sketches and ending with precise, computer-drafted details.

It is readily apparent in these narratives that independently of a knowledge of the detail patterns and some conventions of drafting, detailing requires a ready familiarity with construction materials, tools, processes, and standards that must be acquired from sources other than this book. It is assumed that the reader has at least a begin ning understanding of these areas and that it is being augmented constantly by reading the technical literature, consulting more experienced colleagues, and observing actual construction operations.

The three building designs presented here break no new-stylistic ground. They aspire only to contribute to an initial understanding of mainstream detailing practice. As one acquires more experience, it is even more challenging and a good deal more fun to work on the detailing of an out-of-the-ordinary design.

There is a crucial theme that runs through these three examples: The design of the details of a building is a process that establishes with considerable precision both the technical means of its construction and its interior and exterior appearance. In each of the three examples, we begin the design of the details with only a crude idea of the form and texture of the building. By the time the mere handf ul of key details have been developed to a preliminary stage of completion, the building has come alive, not only because it has become patently constructiblc, but also because it has assumed a character and a personality of considerable depth. It follows that the design of the details of a building should begin while its form and space are still fluid. In this way, the materials selected, the processes by which they are assembled, and the developing character of the details can inform the form-making process for the building as a whole. There are few greater mistakes that a designer can make than to create a finished form for a building and only then begin to consider how to build it. Buildings designed in this way (and there arc far too many of them) generally resemble flimsy, unsatisfying stage sets. Every truly great building, ancient or contemporary, incorporates its handling of materials and processes as an integral part of its aesthetic, showing that its designer expended as much love and expertise on its details as on its space and form.

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