In the Middle Ages, castle designers learned their skills by trial and error.
Modern Day castle architects use engineers.
In the Middle Ages, castles were often created as forts to hold back invaders and as monuments to their funding sources. In some instances, cathedrals became one of the most important aspects of the castle environment, in addition to the royalty’s palace. Castle designers worked largely with thick stone walls and after the collapse of many stone roof systems, defaulted to large timber roofs, often covered with slate, which lasts about forever and resists fire from without. Castle architects did not necessarily have the formal education we enjoy today, but they made up for this with apprenticeships in the real world, watching and noting what happens when sloping roofs transferred horizontal loads to vertical walls: they fell down. So, castle designers learned from their lack of engineering acumen and tried to solve it with brute force: they made the walls thicker. This worked somewhat, but often was not enough when spans increased, therefore, we saw the introduction of such graceful features as flying buttresses on Notre Dame Cathedral, which the castle designers of Rand Soellner Architect are using on one of their castle home designs, to brace vertical walls against the thrust imparted to the wall tops from sloping roof members, although Soellner confesses that modern day castle home designs have more to do with castle aesthetics than the sort of force-resolution issues with which our forefathers grappled.
Clients Looking for Castle Designers Today, Call Castle Home Architect, Rand Soellner
Clients contact Rand Soellner Architect because they like the look of castles. And there are very few castle designers like Soellner to create one for them. What is it about castle design that induces people to go to the extraordinary expenditure to have it designed and built for them? Soellner has personally been to both Versailles outside of Paris and he lives not far from the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina, upon which it was based, which has been touted as the largest house in the United States (this claim may no longer be valid with the growth of millionaires and billionaires in the USA).
Notre Dame - flying buttresses
While Soellner enjoyed both buildings, he prefers the Biltmore Estate over the French original for several reasons, including what he believe to be a more picturesque site and less ostentatious ornamentation. Unfortunately, the castle architecture of both of these world-class examples of castle design suffer from overly-deep rooms and furniture arrangements that ignore the wonderful views outside their windows and terraces. In these historic structures, there seems to be a focus on man-made decoration, which may have been in favor by castle designers of Old. When in the form of embroidered and gilded trims around ceilings, it seems to Soellner that the richness of experience that could have been obtained by reorienting the spaces to nature’s vistas would have been a measurable improvement.
Today’s castle designers use timber framing and other systems. Castle designers utilize construction benefits from modern space planning techniques while cladding these spaces with evolved historic references and materials such as stone walls, timber frame roofs and the ever-popular turret. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that just about everything created on the main level is so heavy that it will typically extrude down through the lower levels all the way to the foundation.
Castle designers of today respond to client requests to capture the picturesque characteristics of Medieval castles, while using more economical construction methods. Soellner often creates a hybrid approach, using both heavy stone and timber frame systems so that the entire structural stability is not dependent on the stone veneer as a load-bearing element. As a matter of fact, Soellner points out that the newer version of the International Residential Code (IRC) prohibit use of stone veneers as load-bearing components, due to problems with that approach in the past. “That is how mankind learns,” said Soellner, trying what works and noting what doesn’t, and learning what makes sense and what doesn’t.” Fortunately for today’s castle designers, there are also consulting structural engineers to help value engineer the supporting components to insure a stable system.
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