Geometry: The gateway drug to an enriching life.

I had the honor to first meet and work beside Laurie Smith at the Medieval Geometric Workshop that took place in the Fall of 2008 at Cressing Temple, which is located between Witham and Braintree in Essex, England.

Cressing Temple is the site of three impressive timber frame buildings: the thirteenth century Barley Barn and Wheat Barn, described by historian Michael Haag as "the two finest Templar-built barns in Europe," and the later Granary building. The Barley Barn is an early thirteenth century (c. 1220) barn modified in later centuries, and is the oldest standing timber frame barn in the world.

The two barns were designed using the medieval geometric principals of the time. Rather than being purely mysterious and magical (which they also are) geometric design is quite practical when designing buildings and has the result of creating intuitively harmonious spaces.

While we were there, we built a small garden seating area based upon the same geometric ratios as the two great barns. "No Maths No Power" was the rule, so we set aside our modern tools, such as spirit levels, pencils, and tape measures. The simple step of not using numbers and mathematics expanded the world of design right before our eyes.

Below are a few pictures of the workshop. As you can see, it's a great deal of fun and there is nothing like working hard with others to create something beautiful to share with the world.

Outside of being the principal educator in medieval geometric layout in the world, Laurie Smith is one of the most wonderful, intelligent, engaged, and humorous people you will ever meet. Not to mention that while touring through various towns in England, and being at least 30 years his junior, I could barely keep up with his brisk pace.

Should you want more info about Laurie or to engage in his services please see his website.

Converting trees to beams, two men "juggle" together. To keep a steady rhythm a song is sung.

Converting trees to beams, two men "juggle" together. To keep a steady rhythm a song is sung.

 Hewing surfaces with an ancient axe to a degree of flatness I had never seen.

 Hewing surfaces with an ancient axe to a degree of flatness I had never seen.

Setting out datum points based on the geometric proportions.

Setting out datum points based on the geometric proportions.

Me trying my hand at pit sawing.

Me trying my hand at pit sawing.

An overview of the yard.

An overview of the yard.

Interior photograph, showing some of the joinery inside the Barley Barn.

Interior photograph, showing some of the joinery inside the Barley Barn.

English Tying Beam with Lapped Brace inspired from the great barn's joinery. Something worth noting is that the boring technology needed to create the ubiquitous mortice was not as developed in medieval times, so lapped joinery is quite common. Personally I rather like them.

English Tying Beam with Lapped Brace inspired from the great barn's joinery. Something worth noting is that the boring technology needed to create the ubiquitous mortice was not as developed in medieval times, so lapped joinery is quite common. Personally I rather like them.

The inscription on the inner tie beam carved by Rupert Newman says "A frame for Cecil and Adrian." Cecil is Cecil Hewett, author of a number of pivotal books on historic carpentry. Adrian is Adrian Gibson, a colleague of Cecil and a great historic buildings specialist. Adrian and Laurie Smith worked on the geometry of the great barns at Cressing Temple.

The inscription on the inner tie beam carved by Rupert Newman says "A frame for Cecil and Adrian." Cecil is Cecil Hewett, author of a number of pivotal books on historic carpentry. Adrian is Adrian Gibson, a colleague of Cecil and a great historic buildings specialist. Adrian and Laurie Smith worked on the geometry of the great barns at Cressing Temple.

The inscription on the outer tie beam carved by Rupert Newman says "Grow Beauty in The Garden of Your Mind." This faces out into the walled Elizabethan garden. The phrase was written by Laurie Smith.

The inscription on the outer tie beam carved by Rupert Newman says "Grow Beauty in The Garden of Your Mind." This faces out into the walled Elizabethan garden. The phrase was written by Laurie Smith.

The man himself, Laurie Smith, pounding a peg home.

The man himself, Laurie Smith, pounding a peg home.

As the youngest member of our crew, Nathan Jones attaches the ceremonial whetting bush.

As the youngest member of our crew, Nathan Jones attaches the ceremonial whetting bush.

Our three instructors, Laurie Smith, Joel Hendry, and William Clement Smith, standing under the completed timber frame.

Our three instructors, Laurie Smith, Joel Hendry, and William Clement Smith, standing under the completed timber frame.