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Origin and history of curved roofs


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#1 Tibet Libre

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 08:07 PM

Hello,

when did those typical curved roofs of Chinese temples came into being? And why this form and not more straight ones?

#2 Tibet Libre

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 10:17 AM

IIRC, Han earthenware models already show curved roofs. Is this correct? Are there different types of curved roofs? For example, the Thai temples roofs look pretty different, don't they?

#3 bayonet

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Posted 16 June 2007 - 10:18 AM

Sorry, what you mean by curved roofs?

#4 Tibet Libre

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 10:08 AM

Sorry, what you mean by curved roofs?


Like those you have in your avatar. The ubiquitous form of ancient Chinese roofs. What is the technical term for those then?

#5 Kimchee

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 11:51 AM

Hello,

when did those typical curved roofs of Chinese temples came into being? And why this form and not more straight ones?


Hi Tibet Libre,

From what I gather... the eaves were overextended for controlling the rain water... so that it didn't run down into the footings of the building, but why the little slopes up at the corners, I couldn't find out. Could it be something as simple as aesthetics? Perhaps a symbolic reason? For example, temples and pagodas used blue tile roofs to represent the sky... perhaps it made the oversized and heavy roof look like it was floating? (just a guess)

Do a search here on CHF for "roof" and there are a number of threads discussing Chinese archetecture, however, there was no specific reason as to why the Chinese roof is shaped the way it is... just that it was "traditional."

Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Kimchee
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#6 Master Ghost Valley

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 12:41 PM

Hello,

when did those typical curved roofs of Chinese temples came into being? And why this form and not more straight ones?


Hi Tibet Libre'

Perhaps I can help. The curve upward is a hydraulic device to throw the water further away fron the building. The water picks up velocity as it comes down the slope but as to far it will travel after it leaves the solid surface, that is a function of how far it travels in a horizontal direction in free fall. So if it continues to travel in a downward angle it will not travel as far as it would if the direction of travel was upward. A good example is a skier going down a ski jump, the travel down slope is to pick up speed and the curve at the base is to give " jump " keep the skier in the air longer so he can travel a longer horizontal distance. This a very clever device and even today we sometimes use shaped surfaces to control water. However we western Architects do not use this type of device in ordinary buildings very often because it is labor and material intensive.


Hope this has answered you question
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#7 Kimchee

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Posted 20 June 2007 - 03:32 PM

Hi Tibet Libre'

Perhaps I can help. The curve upward is a hydraulic device to throw the water further away fron the building. The water picks up velocity as it comes down the slope but as to far it will travel after it leaves the solid surface, that is a function of how far it travels in a horizontal direction in free fall. So if it continues to travel in a downward angle it will not travel as far as it would if the direction of travel was upward. A good example is a skier going down a ski jump, the travel down slope is to pick up speed and the curve at the base is to give " jump " keep the skier in the air longer so he can travel a longer horizontal distance. This a very clever device and even today we sometimes use shaped surfaces to control water. However we western Architects do not use this type of device in ordinary buildings very often because it is labor and material intensive.
Hope this has answered you question


Thanks for your explanation... I thought it had to do with water run-off, but didn't know the physics of how it worked. That's why I started throwing out other possibilities. I wish I was someplace to observe how the water moves over the edge. Now I want to see it in action. :P

Kimchee
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#8 Tibet Libre

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:36 AM

The curve upward is a hydraulic device to throw the water further away fron the building.


Thanks, very good explanation. However, I feel that reason might be a bit too rationalistic and more reflects our modern thinking which we naturally tend to apply. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that curved roofs can throw water farther from the wall, and the 'real' reason for their shape is rather religious or ideological or whatever? Just guessing.

Anyway, curved roofs would then only make sense if the walls were mudbrick, because stone or brick walls can deflect water by their own water resilience, isn't it? Were later Chinese temples also still built with wood and mudbrick?

Edited by Tibet Libre, 25 June 2007 - 07:37 AM.


#9 fcharton

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:46 AM

Anyway, curved roofs would then only make sense if the walls were mudbrick, because stone or brick walls can deflect water by their own water resilience, isn't it? Were later Chinese temples also still built with wood and mudbrick?


No, even concrete or stone walls don't like having water trickle on them, this is the reason why we have gutters... Another reason is that if rain is hard, it will tend to form puddles where it falls, and you want this to be as far as possible from the wall, unless humidity attacks the foundations of the building.

Francois

#10 Tibet Libre

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 07:59 AM

No, even concrete or stone walls don't like having water trickle on them, this is the reason why we have gutters... Another reason is that if rain is hard, it will tend to form puddles where it falls, and you want this to be as far as possible from the wall, unless humidity attacks the foundations of the building.


Of course, you are right. Any constructor wants from a theoretical point of view water to be as far away from the walls as possible. However, looking at construction practice, the overwhelming mass of pre-modern buildings even in China are constructed with a straight roof. That means builders must have thought curved roofs not worth the additional costs and effort. I would say that kind of proves that brick or stone walls were just enough to tip the balance in favour of straight roofs, wherever costs played a role.

Edited by Tibet Libre, 25 June 2007 - 08:00 AM.


#11 Borjigin Ayurbarwada

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 09:46 PM

Most ancient Chinese houses were build of mudbricks and stones. This is the typical peasant lodging anywhere in the world.

Edited by warhead, 25 June 2007 - 09:48 PM.


#12 Master Ghost Valley

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Posted 26 June 2007 - 12:38 AM

Of course, you are right. Any constructor wants from a theoretical point of view water to be as far away from the walls as possible. However, looking at construction practice, the overwhelming mass of pre-modern buildings even in China are constructed with a straight roof. That means builders must have thought curved roofs not worth the additional costs and effort. I would say that kind of proves that brick or stone walls were just enough to tip the balance in favor of straight roofs, wherever costs played a role.


HI 'Tibet Libre The reason for curved slopes at the toe of the rafters have additional but not so apparent but very important function.

Superior architects are kindred spirits to sorcerers , It is the business of the Architect when necessary to create a certain mood and capture your emotions.. ,,,, as well as keep the rain out.

The way things work, when an observer views a building, the size, shape, texture, the effects of shades and shadows. the color, the setting and placement on the site. where the viewer is standing in the way of angle of view are what my namesake Master Ghost Valley would call the critical pivot points which determine the outcome of the impression the structure will make on a viewers mind.

The factors I mentioned are all tools ( props ) we use to create a mood, an impression, a feeling. All these to create a psychological environment pre- determined and pre calculate by the mind of the Architect to capture control that of the viewer. And if we do our job right you will be emotionally moved, exactly to the emotional state we have schemed to place you in.

I would imagine the designers in those days the were master builders and not called architects but nevertheless men who mastered the principals of human psychology and employed their talents in order to use the " tangible " ( stones, wood mud clay bricks) to wrest control of " the intangible" ( the emotions).

I am certain that on this forum the yin yang analogy to the tangible and the intangible where emotion can make tangible things happen and tangible things can make emotional things happen will not go unnoticed.

So the upturned eves have become a very chinese symbol of a temple or very special building designed to stand apart.

Any structure using exotic material or a shape very hard to make ( all the carving ) all the special artistic effort, something that jumps out and says to the world I AM SPECIAL, SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY.-BEHOLD ME AND BE INTIMIDATED and IMPRESSED, and now you may go your way with the memory of what I am and what you are.

A classy lady walking down the street in a $ 10,000 fur coat cut for fashion may not be not as warm as a poor shop girl in a cheap dull cloth coat. Take note that both have a coat, but each coat makes a different statement,,, most likely the shop girl would like to have the luxury coat and the other one because she can afford waste, would not want to be caught dead in the cloth coat...that is the way our minds usually work. We may say the classy one has a coat of luxury, what is luxury? it is waste done with taste.....An the same concept goes for buildings, we use ornaments, material space, just as a person uses jewelry and expensive material and the eves are props designed to do a job.

The office at this time is in the process of designing a very emotional religious structure dripping with marble, brilliant stain glass cascading colored light , extreme high ceilings, coffered ceilings , translucent alabaster car sized chandeliers, very large truly spectacular fountains carefully placed opposite each other so that besides the visual grapple, the sound of water will be used to lull the feelings, and yes the fountains will spray upward and then shaped surfaces will use hydraulic principals to dazzle both the eye and the ear as the water moves and then reposes. We need all these things so we can succeed at what Master Ghost Valley calls "Hooking and Clamping "i.e. using our devices for grabbing attention and in his words; ' make the brain more sensitized and susceptible to being grabbed'.

We are also designing a children's library and when one becomes ensnared within the space over which we have influence, make no mistake they will again be a child in wonderland. and we hope not even know what we did to "hook and grab them "

The point is 'Tibet Libre you were close to the truth when you perceived perhaps a more hidden reason for the curved roof. Let us say that in this case the magic and the practical, the real and the unreal, became welded together each doing their respective jobs. Like the chinese say" "interconnected rings, who knows where one stops and the other begins " A "thing: of beauty and pleasure , a practical thing doing a dull common every day utilitarian task.........Which is more valuable? it depends on who you ask.

In any event, 'Tibet Libre , consider yourself as having been grabbed by a designer of long ago, and is not not even himself here now.....but he grabbed you! Anyway! Wonderful.

Who would think the spirits of Sun Tzu, Han Fei Tzu and Kuei-Ku Tzu , would be perceived as kindred to span across the years with their reflected wisdom to assist modern day designers.

Also, now you may understand what an Architect is doing intruding amongst historians,,,, this one is attempting to absorb even a smattering of the reflected wisdom found in the ways of the ancient philosophers of China. Why? because I know of no more fertile ground where this elusive intangible magical skill resides.
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#13 mohistManiac

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Posted 01 March 2010 - 09:01 PM

Mostly conjecture out there. Some say the curve originated out of Buddhism and its ancient principles of warding off evil with curves. I'm actually surprised there aren't schematics and manuals surviving from the onset of the concept that would give idea as to the importance behind the upward curvature of the corner eaves, functional or decorative or both. I don't think it just came out of the blue though. Most likely someone in charge of architecture had been responsible for coming up with the idea and it was deemed necessary for more important buildings to have this feature. My own theory is that it functions as some sort of lens hood, figuratively speaking. With a normal lens hood the lens is able to maximize the reception of light rays coming from the maximal limits of its angle of view until the lens hood takes over. By blocking unnecessary light rays from entering through the lens you can reduce the intensity of lens flares in wide angle photography. But the curved Chinese roof is actually trying to let more light in even while it acts as a lens hood by preventing a large fraction of skylight from entering. While there is nothing you can do about the earth and its horizon in preventing further skylight from being used as natural lighting there is something you can do about the roof corners which when upturned allows for a slightly better field of view. The longer the building gets you'd want to upturn the corner eaves along a gradient which has its starting point at the center axis and hence the Tang style buildings like in Japan (Tōdai-ji temple) have a nice smooth curve because of the sizes of the roofs involved with their immense overhang. Smaller buildings that feature exaggerated curvatures like pavilions would be mere decorative efforts in using this principle or have encoded the simple concept with yet another set of symbologies.
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#14 hanhuang

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 12:21 PM

The upward curve at the edge of the eaves is to maximize sunlight entering the house when the sun is in the southern sky during winter and to maximize the shaded area around the house when the sun is more directly overhead in the summer. Thus, there is a practical reason for having a house facing south, more than just fengshui. Just draw a curved rooftop and some projection lines from the top and you can see why. I seem to remember reading about this in a report written by some researcher(s) who did a study of Song Dynasty archectiture.

If this is indeed so, then it would be interesting to find out if this curvature changes and if it is depended on the latitude where the house is located.

Edited by hanhuang, 20 May 2010 - 12:22 PM.


#15 mohistManiac

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Posted 29 May 2010 - 04:08 PM

The upward curve at the edge of the eaves is to maximize sunlight entering the house when the sun is in the southern sky during winter and to maximize the shaded area around the house when the sun is more directly overhead in the summer. Thus, there is a practical reason for having a house facing south, more than just fengshui. Just draw a curved rooftop and some projection lines from the top and you can see why. I seem to remember reading about this in a report written by some researcher(s) who did a study of Song Dynasty archectiture.

If this is indeed so, then it would be interesting to find out if this curvature changes and if it is depended on the latitude where the house is located.


You are truly right about south facing buildings. During winter months the sun's rays are biased cast on the southern side like you say and hence the warmth from the sun is better providing on the south side when you open the Chinese style entrance which was the full span of the house. Incidentally this is why it is more user friendly if a southern entranced building also had a large area front porch since members of the house could go outside during the summertime and enjoy much shade for the duration of the day. I would conjecture that because ancient Chinese buildings were planned with a north south orientation axis in mind but that they also made the roof the same on the north side as it is on the south side that the north side of house was where supplementary structures could be built to enhance the amount of shadow on the main structure along with the planting of fruit trees for further shading the summer transition period. And if this was uniformly applied that streets in ancient China were lined with houses each of which whose main view was of an illusory fruit forest laid right before their eyes. It's hard to imagine that all this creative and functional arrangement can come from primitive Chinese view of the universe and then trying to cosmetically orient to it.
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