ABOUT REVIVAL OF WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
ABOUT RUSSIAN WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
ABOUT MANUFACTURING
THE TIMELINESS OF WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
ABOUT WOODEN
ARCHITECTURE
ABOUT REVIVAL OF WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
Existing from time immemorial, Russian wooden architecture, which developed over many centuries and fell into decay in the 20th century, may seem archaic and forgotten at first glance, especially against the background of the modern civilization. However, when it comes to the construction of small churches and chapels as well as country houses, traditional wooden architecture is not at all outdated but, on the contrary, is becoming increasingly attractive in our time due to its clear advantages. These include: environmental friendliness, beauty, continuation of the centuries-old traditions, and valued technical properties (prefabrication, possibility of transportation, high maintainability, good thermal insulation, and cost-effective maintenance).

Speaking about Russian wooden architecture, it is necessary, first of all, to give a definition. There are very many wood-related architectural styles and production technologies nowadays. But not every wooden building in Russia can be classified as an example of traditional wooden architecture.

If we recognize that Russian wooden architecture is a holistic cultural and historical phenomenon that embodies the tastes and views of the Russian people, then we should distinguish it from and avoid confusion with other works that are similar only in some ways, but essentially relate to others cultural traditions and styles. For example, many mansions and palaces of the 18th and 19th centuries were built of wood, but wood serves only as a building material but not as an artistic material. The log walls in such buildings are usually sheathed or plastered and painted, and in terms of its forms and visualization, this architectural style has nothing to do with vernacular architecture. Nor should it be confused with Russian Art Nouveau. Nor with the modern, sometimes ridiculous, eclectic wooden buildings that are completely devoid of architectural or artistic imagery. There is much talk nowadays about reviving old traditions, and yet this happens very rarely.

So, what is Russian wooden architecture? What are its main features?

A distinctive feature of Russian vernacular wooden architecture is, first of all, the use wood not only as a building material but also as an artistic material. All natural structural and aesthetic qualities of the wood are not hidden but rather revealed and accentuated. Usually, structural elements and techniques have decorative function at the same. For example, the upward slant is done to increase the roof overhangs and protect the walls from precipitation while also accentuate and complete the log walls. Cantilevered logs which carry porches, ledges and balconies are decorated with artistic notches. The powerful pillars are carved; massive window and door jambs are not covered by platbands but are themselves decoration of the openings. Plank roofs with ridge caps, eaves beams and rafters fascinate by their original design and beautiful forms. All that is constructive and functional is at the same time architectural and artistic.

An important feature of traditional wooden buildings is their prefabrication and transportation possibility.

In the old days, Russians built everything from wood – churches, chapels, fortresses, palaces, houses, barns, towns, villages, and all of the above determined the appearance of not only individual buildings, but entire villages. The picturesque silhouettes of buildings, complementing each other and the landscape, evolved into magnificent architectural ensembles.

Russian wooden architecture is a fabulous folk art that has reached amazing heights, revealing many masterpieces of world architecture. Built in the 17th century, the Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in Kolomenskoye was called by the contemporaries the eighth wonder of the world, and the amazing Kizhi architectural ensemble attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every year.

Let's summarize the signs and characteristics of Russian wooden architecture. This is a vernacular architecture which follows the tradition and uses a single material – wood – which serves as a building material as well as an artistic material. This style is distinguished by the completeness and expressiveness of forms, harmony with nature, function and beauty, constructiveness and aesthetics, reliability and durability, as well as prefabrication and transportation possibilities.

Following the traditions, our workshop creates churches and chapels which are paragons of Russian wooden architecture. At the same time, we do not repeat any existing architectural monuments (although we consider them as paragons), but design and build completely new buildings according to the wishes of our clients and the modern requirements, but also make them traditional in their spirit, architectural and artistic image, materials, and design techniques and technologies. Creating such buildings is very difficult. Everything, to the smallest detail, must be perfect – architecturally, structurally, and technologically. This would be impossible without in-depth knowledge of the subject and competent management of the manufacturing process. This is why we opened a training center where our carpenters receive necessary training in this difficult craft, and the work on construction sites is carried out under the direct supervision of the architect and his assistants.

In our workshop, the architect is not only a designer who does the drawings, but also a master who directs the implementation of a project, including the selection of materials, workflow management, and carpenter training. Our best carpenters are collaborators of the architect who have sufficient knowledge and experience and do their work creatively and lovingly.

All structural elements of buildings are made at our production base, which comprises an open cutting site and carpentry workshops. After the fit-up and marking of the elements, buildings are carefully disassembled, loaded onto trucks and delivered to the site of construction where they are unloaded and assembled on the ready foundation.

Our main production site is located in the capital of Karelia, Petrozavodsk. Karelia is the land of lakes, forests and wooden architectural masterpieces. We use Karelian pines as the main material, known for their excellent building qualities. We draw inspiration from our rich cultural heritage, beautiful monuments of vernacular architecture that have been preserved in the North Russian land. We have very broad geography – from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Far East of Russia. We have experience in the restoration of remarkable architectural monuments.

In addition to manufacturing and construction, we are engaged in research, education and training activities aimed at reviving Russian traditional culture.


Peter Karelin
Founder of Russian Beginnings Orthodox Christian Studies Center,
Head of the Wooden Architecture Workshop,
member of the Temple Builders Guild

E-mail: russbase@rambler.ru
www.rusnachala.ru
www.master-karelin.ru

ABOUT RUSSIAN WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
The concept of Russian wooden architecture

Existing from time immemorial, Russian wooden architecture, which developed over many centuries and fell into decay in the 20th century, may seem archaic and forgotten at first glance, especially against the background of the modern civilization. However, when it comes to the construction of country houses, traditional wooden architecture is not at all outdated but, on the contrary, is becoming increasingly attractive in our time due to its clear advantages. These include: environmental friendliness, beauty, continuation of the centuries-old traditions, and valued technical properties (prefabrication, possibility of transportation, high maintainability, good thermal insulation, and cost-effective maintenance).

Speaking about Russian wooden architecture, it is necessary, first of all, to define it. There are very many wood-related architectural styles and production technologies nowadays. But not every wooden building in Russia can be classified as an example of traditional wooden architecture.

If we recognize that Russian wooden architecture is a holistic cultural and historical phenomenon that embodies the tastes and views of the Russian people, then we should distinguish it from and avoid confusion with other works that are similar only in some ways, but essentially relate to others cultural traditions and styles. For example, many mansions and palaces of the 18th and 19th centuries were built of wood, but wood serves only as a building material but not as an artistic material. The log walls in such buildings are usually sheathed or plastered and painted, and in terms of its forms and visualization, this architectural style has nothing to do with vernacular architecture. Nor should it be confused with Russian Art Nouveau. Nor with the modern, sometimes ridiculous, eclectic wooden buildings that are completely devoid of architectural or artistic imagery. There is much talk nowadays about reviving old traditions, and yet this happens very rarely.

So, what is Russian wooden architecture? What are its main features?

A distinctive feature of Russian vernacular wooden architecture is, first of all, the use wood not only as a building material but also as an artistic material. All natural structural and aesthetic qualities of the wood are not hidden but rather revealed and accentuated. Usually, structural elements and techniques have decorative function at the same. For example, the upward slant is done to increase the roof overhangs and protect the walls from precipitation while also accentuate and complete the log walls. Cantilevered logs which carry porches, ledges and balconies are decorated with artistic notches. The powerful pillars are carved; massive window and door jambs are not covered by plat bands but are themselves decoration of the openings. Plank roofs with ridge caps, eaves beams and rafters fascinate by their original design and beautiful forms. All that is constructive and functional is at the same time architectural and artistic.

The plethora of forms is created by combining similar traditional architectural and constructional elements repeated in different buildings, mastered and honed over the centuries. The uniqueness of the whole despite the repeatability of its element is one of the principles of this traditional architecture. Buildings may seem similar, but there are no identical ones.

An important feature of traditional wooden buildings is their prefabrication and transportation possibility.

In the old days, Russians built everything from wood – churches, chapels, fortresses, palaces, houses, barns, towns, villages, and all of the above determined the appearance of not only individual buildings, but entire villages. The picturesque silhouettes of buildings, complementing each other and the landscape, evolved into magnificent architectural ensembles.

Russian wooden architecture is a fabulous folk art that has reached amazing heights, revealing many masterpieces of world architecture. Built in the 17th century, the Wooden Palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in Kolomenskoye was called by the contemporaries the eighth wonder of the world, and the amazing Kizhi architectural ensemble attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every year.

Let's summarize the signs and characteristics of Russian wooden architecture. This is a vernacular architecture which follows the tradition and uses a single material – wood – which serves as a building material as well as an artistic material. This style is distinguished by the completeness and expressiveness of forms, harmony with nature, function and beauty, constructiveness and aesthetics, reliability and durability, as well as prefabrication and transportation possibilities.


History of Russian wooden architecture

In ancient Russia, wooden architecture was ubiquitous because wood was the main building material, and most men had some carpentry skills to some extent. However, wooden buildings often suffered from fires. Therefore the most important buildings – cathedrals and, over time, fortresses – were built out of stone. Gradually, the construction of stone and brick buildings became more accessible, and there were fewer good timber forests. Wooden architecture gradually moved to the remote and forest abundant northern lands. At the turn of the 17th century, Peter the Great begins his reforms which will fundamentally change the whole way of life, the customs and tastes of Russian aristocracy. Russian customs were long forgotten, and the Western European culture was enforced in every possible way. This had a profound impact on the Russian wooden architecture: it completely disappeared from the life of the Russian aristocracy, and although it continued in the peasant milieu of central Russia, it no longer developed, but was simplified, faded, and degraded over time. However, wooden architecture continued to develop in the 18th century in the Russian north, abundant in forests and populated mainly by free peasants and artisans. Most of the masterpieces of Russia's northern wooden architecture were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. These include the world-famous Kizhi enclosures, Kem Assumption Cathedral, Dormition Church of Kondopoga, and the majestic churches in Poonezhye and Podvinye. But in the 19th century, the new trends reached these distant lands. New churches were now built either from brick or wood but in a new fashion, far from the age-old traditions of the indigenous people. They even tried to remake older churches, re-designing their appearance and the interior in accordance with new tastes inspired by the European architecture of Russia's northern capital. The log walls of the ancient buildings were covered with painted plating, wooden roof boards and tiles were replaced with iron, traditional hipped roofs were replaced with spiers on the bell towers, the interiors were unrecognizable – new lining, painting, wallpaper, gilded iconostases and icon cases with glass, paneled doors, etc. The merchants and clergy who created all this at that time called these alterations as "magnificent renovations".

In the second half of the 19th century, the enlightened Russian society awakens to the folk culture and Russian antiquities. Architects and art historians begin to study Russian vernacular wooden architecture, travel around the Russian north, making measurements and sketches of old wooden buildings. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first attempts were made to restore wooden churches in the Russian north.

But the revolution interrupts the revival of ancient Russian culture. In the 20s and 30s of the last century, churches were closed down across the country – some were turned into clubs, warehouses or simply abandoned, while others were destroyed. An abandoned wooden building cannot stand for long as it requires maintenance and care. Rotten roofs begin to leak, the lower crowns of the log buildings rot, and debris from bird nests accumulates under the plates. Worse still, many buildings suffer from fires. As a result, by the end of the 20th century, the vast majority of monuments of wooden architecture were lost. However, many monuments were saved, restored locally or relocated to open-air museums of wooden architecture. Through the efforts of architects and restorers in the second half of the 20th century, including, first of all, Alexander Opolovnikov, many masterpieces of wooden architecture were carefully studied, measured, restored, and put under government's protection. Museums, institutes, scientific and restoration design studios and workshops were created, books on wooden architecture were published.
ABOUT MANUFACTURING
Our workshop creates high-quality buildings and products that are paragons of Russian wooden architecture. We do not repeat any existing architectural monuments but design and build completely new buildings according to the wishes of our clients and the modern requirements, but also make them traditional in their spirit, architectural and artistic image, materials, and design techniques and technologies. Creating such buildings is very difficult. Everything, to the smallest detail, must be perfect – architecturally, structurally, and technologically. This would be impossible without in-depth knowledge of the subject and competent management of the manufacturing process. This is why we opened a training center where our carpenters receive necessary training in this difficult craft, and the work on construction sites is carried out under the direct supervision of the architect and his assistants.

What does our work has high quality? Let's take a closer look at our process.

In our workshop, the architect is not only a designer who does the drawings, but also a master who directs the implementation of a project, including the selection of materials, work flow management, and carpenter training. Our best carpenters are collaborators of the architect who have sufficient knowledge and experience and do their work creatively and lovingly.

The quality of the work begins with the quality of material. We carefully select the logs. The selection criteria include the following:

– the age and, accordingly, the density of the tree – a good building pine should have a standing root of one hundred years, a large core, a thin sapwood, and a shallow layer (density of the growth rings) to ensure the durability of the building;

– the curvature of the log should be minimal – even logs look more appealing and fit tight to each other, allowing wide longitudinal grooves – this provides thermal insulation;

– log thickness at least 30 cm (for a residential building) – allows having wide longitudinal grooves which are necessary for thermal insulation; the thickness can be much larger if the customer requires;

– taperness – reduction of the log's thickness from the butt to the top – should be minimal; acceptable taperness is 1% (1 cm of thickness per 1 m of length);

– straightness;

– a minimum number of knots.

Logs are barked manually with a scrapper, clean and smooth.

Logging is done manually, using special forged split-shaped axes, recreated from the models of the 17-18th centuries (discovered and put into use by famous restorer A.V. Popov). Chopping with these axes gives a special quality of wood processing, smooth roundness of the grooves, smoothness and absence of tick marks on the chipped surface, which ensures the beauty, strength and durability of buildings.

To make a high quality log house is very, very difficult. This business has many nuances to be taken into account. Typically, a customer evaluates the quality of their log house by the visual appearance and the fitness of the logs. But this is not enough. The quality of a log house depends on a number of other factors. For example, equally important is the width of the grooves as it will determine the insulation properties of the building. A warm log house typically has at least 14-15 cm wide grooves. In this case, the grooves should be moderately undercut, otherwise the logs may crack after drying. For angular tongue and bowl connections, neat moderate notches are recommended so that after drying the logs do not crack in the bowls. If a log house is made with internal trimming, it is very important that the wanes are uniform and not too narrow – a wide groove in combination with a narrow wane can lead to natural deformation or mechanical damage to the log during dismantling, loading and/or transportation.

Another very important issue is the quality of log coupling, and not only visible, but also internal, latent couplings. Russian wooden architecture makes use of many different ways of pairing the logs that have been forgotten and abandoned by modern carpenters. It is important to note that a log is not a unified structural element, like a brick in masonry. Each log has its own individual characteristics. Carpenter's skill is also about selecting the right log for the right place in the log structure. Equally important is to set the log right, draw it and build on to the building.

This was a very brief overview of what a good log house looks like. However, Russian wooden architecture is not only about log cabins. A traditional, beautiful and comfortable Russian log house is a house with massive window and door jambs, carved porch pillars, balconies, open arcades, fences with balusters, carved cornices, verge boards, barge boards, and wooden plank and tile roofs. At our workshop, we do all of this – with great love, knowledge and skill.

Door and window jambs are made of massive timber (200x200 mm or more). For these, we use selected seasoned timber. Specially selected, close-grown butt segments are dried in the open air under a canopy during at least one year. We constantly replenish this stock. Before manufacturing a jamb, we use these logs to cut out a beam of the desired section, which is then planed and rebated for a door or a window and grooved for the butt crest of the log wall. Jambs usually have cooper's joints. Jambs are inserted into the openings, fitting tightly to the end ridges of the log walls. The ends of the logs are beautifully trimmed flush with the surface of the jamb, forming the so-called "marigolds" or "dawns". Jambs are sometimes decorated with embossed carvings.

Carved pillars of the porches, balconies and open arcades are made of the same material as jambs. Carving is done with an ax and various chisels. Traditional carved pillars come in both round and square sections and are interconnected by railings with balusters or a plank fence. By the way, the recent ridiculous custom of making the fencing of balconies and open arcades (terraces) from logs is structurally and aesthetically unjustified and was nowhere to be found in the Russian tradition. This technique appeared in buildings made of thin machine-rounded logs, but it makes no sense to use it in manually done log cabins.

Traditional carved decorations (cornices, verge boards, barge boards) are important elements of a traditional image of a Russian wooden building, and depending on its purpose and style, the decor can be modest and restrained or rich and ornate.

Wooden roofs (plank, tiled or split) are not popular nowadays as they have a relatively short service life and are rather expensive. Nevertheless, some clients and owners of wooden houses and bathhouses do choose wooden roofing for the sake of beauty and style. Our workshop has considerable experience in manufacturing and installation of wooden roofing, including the archaic nail-less technology.

All structural elements of buildings are made at our production base, which comprises an open cutting site and carpentry workshops. After the fit-up and marking of the elements, the building is carefully disassembled, loaded onto trucks and delivered to the site of construction. At the construction site, the building is unloaded and assembled on the ready foundation. The customer then accepts the building according to the contract. We offer turnkey solutions too.

Our main production site is located in the capital of Karelia, Petrozavodsk. Karelia is the land of lakes, forests and wooden architectural masterpieces. We use Karelian pines as the main material because they are known for their excellent building qualities. We draw inspiration from our rich cultural heritage, beautiful monuments of vernacular architecture that have been preserved in Karelian land. Our creative and manufacturing capabilities are not limited to Karelia and the Russian north. We deliver projects in different parts of Russia.

Our workshop cooperates with museums, educational institutions, other architectural and industrial workshops in Russia and abroad.
THE TIMELINESS OF WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
Russia is a country of wooden architecture. The advanced Russian civilization coupled with the abundance of timber forests have given rise to a unique cultural and historical phenomenon – Russian wooden architecture. This is a vernacular architecture that has determined the appearance of Russian cities and villages during many centuries, equally admired by the locals and visitors, praised by artists and poets, priceless cultural heritage.

The fate of Russian wooden architecture is intricate and tragic – just like Russia's traditional culture in general. In ancient Russia, wooden architecture was ubiquitous because wood was the main building material, and most men had some carpentry skills to some extent. However, wooden buildings often suffered from fires. Therefore the most important buildings – cathedrals and, over time, fortresses – were built out of stone. Gradually, the construction of stone and brick buildings became more accessible, and there were fewer good timber forests. Wooden architecture gradually moved to the remote and forest abundant northern lands. At the turn of the 17th century, Peter the Great begins his reforms which will fundamentally change the whole way of life, the customs and tastes of Russian aristocracy. Russian customs were long forgotten, and the Western European culture was enforced in every possible way. This had a profound impact on the Russian wooden architecture: it completely disappeared from the life of the Russian aristocracy, and although it continued in the peasant milieu of central Russia, it no longer developed, but was simplified, faded, and degraded over time. However, wooden architecture continued to develop in the 18th century in the Russian north, abundant in forests and populated mainly by free peasants and artisans. Most of the masterpieces of Russia's northern wooden architecture were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. These include the world-famous Kizhi enclosures, Kem Assumption Cathedral, Dormition Church of Kondopoga, and the majestic churches in Poonezhye and Podvinye. But in the 19th century, the new trends reached these distant lands. New churches were now built either from brick or wood but in a new fashion, far from the age-old traditions of the indigenous people. They even tried to remake older churches, re-designing their appearance and the interior in accordance with new tastes inspired by the European architecture of Russia's northern capital. The log walls of the ancient buildings were covered with painted plating, wooden roof boards and tiles were replaced with iron, traditional hipped roofs were replaced with spiers on the bell towers, the interiors were unrecognizable – new lining, painting, wallpaper, gilded iconostases and icon cases with glass, paneled doors, etc. The merchants and clergy who created all this at that time called these alterations as "magnificent renovations".

In the second half of the 19th century, the enlightened Russian society awakens to the folk culture and Russian antiquities. Original Russian culture begins its gradual revival, architects and art historians begin to study Russian vernacular wooden architecture, travel around the Russian north, making measurements and sketches of old wooden buildings. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first attempts were made to restore wooden churches in the Russian north.

But the revolution interrupts the revival of ancient Russian culture. In the 20s and 30s of the last century, churches were closed down across the country – some were turned into clubs, warehouses or simply abandoned, while others were destroyed. An abandoned wooden building cannot stand for long as it requires maintenance and care. Rotten roofs begin to leak, the lower crowns of the log buildings rot, and debris from bird nests accumulates under the plates. Worse still, many buildings suffer from fires. As a result, by the end of the 20th century, the vast majority of monuments of wooden architecture were lost. However, many monuments were saved, restored locally or relocated to open-air museums of wooden architecture. Through the efforts of architects and restorers in the second half of the 20th century, including, first of all, Alexander Opolovnikov, many masterpieces of wooden architecture were carefully studied, measured, restored, and put under government's protection. Museums, institutes, scientific and restoration design studios and workshops were created, books on wooden architecture were published.

Today, Russian Orthodox society realizes that traditional folk culture is not only about the past. Wooden architecture is not only about the times of yore – it may be very contemporary nowadays. The construction of new wooden churches is relevant for many reasons, including low cost, quick construction pace, prefabrication and transportation possibilities along with eco-friendliness and beautiful appearance.

However, wooden churches are often built carelessly nowadays, without a well-designed project or serious knowledge of traditional wooden architecture, and even with gross architectural and constructive errors, distorting the traditional shapes and proportions. Such builders forget that architecture is an art and not just the construction of functional structures. It is very sad to see this happening today. As if we were not the heirs of the centuries-old rich culture of wooden architecture!

Church is a public building, it is built to stand during a long time, for everyone to see, and it expresses the cultural mindset of its creators and church goers, and, generally, the people. All participants in church-building – clergy, church wardens, architects, builders, icon painters, parishioners – should be aware of their responsibility before their contemporaries and descendants and approach this holy work thoughtfully, reverently and professionally, with due respect to the centuries-old traditions of their ancestors.

It is very important to understand that we are reviving not only the churches and religion – but the nation in general as these phenomena and concepts are very related to each other in Russia. Today, in the era of cultural decadence, after three centuries of oblivion of our national culture and several decades of terrible destruction, the Orthodox church carries a cultural and enlightening mission on Russian soil, being a paragon of genuine Russian art.

One must not engage in the construction of wooden churches today without a proper background including an in-depth study of Russian wooden architecture, the experience in research, restoration and revival of the building culture of our ancestors.

Our workshop is contributing to the revival of Russian wooden architecture performing the functions of a designer, a manufacturer, a builder, and a carpenter. Our invaluable expertise in research and restoration of architectural monuments allows us to create real works of art and to conduct educational and enlightenment activities.


Peter Karelin
Founder of Russian Beginnings Orthodox Christian Studies Center,
Head of the Wooden Architecture Workshop,
member of the Temple Builders Guild

E-mail: russbase@rambler.ru
www.rusnachala.ru
www.master-karelin.ru

ABOUT WOODEN ARCHITECTURE
The timeliness of wood

Today, Russian Orthodox society realizes that traditional folk culture is not only about the past. Wooden architecture is not only about the times of yore – it may be very contemporary nowadays. The construction of new wooden churches is relevant for many reasons, including low cost, quick construction pace, prefabrication and transportation possibilities along with Eco-friendliness and beautiful appearance.

It is very important to understand that we are reviving not only the churches and religion – but the nation in general, as these phenomena and concepts are very related to each other in Russia. Today, in the era of cultural decadence, after three centuries of oblivion of our national culture and several decades of terrible destruction, the Orthodox church carries a cultural and enlightening mission on Russian soil, being a paragon of genuine Russian art.

But it has to be pointed out that if in the old days the wooden architectural tradition was very widespread and passed down from generation to generation, whereas today it has been almost forgotten. Most modern builders calling themselves carpenters or cutters barely know about traditional vernacular architecture, its style and the varieties of architectural, structural and technological methods. Therefore, one cannot approach the construction of wooden churches as it was done in older times – simply invite local carpenters and entrust them the project according to some model or vague sketches. Today, any construction must begin with a professional design. Designing a wooden church can only be entrusted to the real experts of Russian wooden architecture who are far and few between nowadays. Carpenters participating in the construction of a cathedral must have special training in this difficult craft.

One must not engage in the construction of wooden churches today without a proper background including an in-depth study of Russian wooden architecture, the experience in research, restoration and revival of the building culture of our ancestors.


Design and Construction Specifics


Traditional wooden architecture has its own specifics. This is a very special area of architecture. Here, designing is inseparable from manufacturing and construction. In a wooden building workshop, the architect works hand in hand with carpenters and, ideally, he is not only a designer who does the drawings, but also a master who directs the implementation of a project, including the selection of materials, work flow management, and carpenter training. Our best carpenters are collaborators of the architect who have sufficient knowledge and experience and do their work creatively and lovingly. A natural log is not a unified structural element, like a bar or brick. Each log has its own individual characteristics. Therefore, the skill of a carpenter is, among other things, in selecting the right log for the right place in the structure. Besides, hand processing of wood carries the individual handwriting of the master. Therefore, the ultimate form of a building does not only depend on the calculations and drawings of the architect, but also on the eye and ax of the carpenter. Computer design, with all its merits, depicts a traditional wooden building rather conventionally, schematically and far-fetched.

Wood is a living material. It has a fibrous structure; it cracks and deforms when dry, reacts to changes in temperature and humidity, changes color due to the rain or sun. When procuring and selecting this material, everything matters: the wood species, the harvesting season (preferably, winter), the harvesting method, the age of the tree, and its characteristics such as thickness, density of growth rings, degree of curvature, longevity, the quantity, and quality of knots. Logs for the construction of a cathedral must be chosen very carefully. Sawing logs into boards and beams, harvesting, sorting, drying and storing lumber also requires special knowledge, skills, professional expertise, and a caring attitude towards the wood.

The workmanship of carpenters and their knowledge of traditional architectural, structural and technological techniques that were developed and honed by our skilled ancestors over several centuries and are now almost forgotten, are crucial. To preserve the culture of wooden architecture, it is necessary to use authentic tools (specially made according to old models) during restoration. The use of original tool coupled with the selected material guarantees that the buildings will be beautiful, strong and durable.

Carpentry craftsmanship and handmade art are the core of vernacular wooden architecture. At the same time, the use of different mechanized tools (as auxiliary tools), modern equipment and lifting mechanisms significantly accelerates the work and brings down its cost. So, high quality and low price are the most important factors in reviving traditional wooden architecture.


Peter Karelin
Founder of Russian Beginnings Orthodox Christian Studies Center,
Head of the Wooden Architecture Workshop,
member of the Temple Builders Guild

E-mail: russbase@rambler.ru
www.rusnachala.ru
www.master-karelin.ru

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