The Poetics of Wood: Design and Carpentry System of Chinese Traditional Architecture

Instructor: Chenchen Lu, March II
Max Enrollment: 15
Date/Time: Jan 5,7,9,12, and 14/10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Gund 318
Description: This Course is going to explore the secret world of Chinese master carpenters who have created one of the most sophisticated timber structure systems in the world. We are going to analyze Chinese architecture from a carpenter\’s point of view. By understanding the traditional carpenter\’s design method and construction logic, we could unravel the mystery of these complex timber structures.
Besides that, we will get a direct experience of Chinese carpentry by operating on models of traditional joints and brackets (prepared by the instructor). And some Chinese traditional carpentry tools will be exhibited and demonstrated in class. Furthermore a set of documentaries made by the instructor in southern China will be presented in the class to show how traditional carpenters think, draw, work and live.
(The introduction part has been posted on Youtube:
Finally, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses in this system and what it offers to contemporary designers.
The topics of this course will include:
1.) a brief history of Chinese traditional architecture
2.) wood and its culture in China
3.) a master carpenter\’s tools and design method
4.) hierarchy and logic of a Chinese timber structure
5.) construction method of a Chinese timber structure
6.) wood joints and brackets system
7.) curved roof and its construction
8.) reading and rethinking Yinzao Fashi《營造法式》 (an ancient technical treatise on architecture and craftsmanship by Lijie (A.D.1065–1110))
9.) case study: Foguang Si Templ, Shanxi Province, China五台山佛光寺大殿(built in 857 AD)
Requirements: n/a
Cost/Materials: $10 for prefabricated model components