Have you ever wondered how castles and Cathedrals were built back in the middle ages? I have for many years. There was a cross section book (probably published by DK) that was at my grandparents’ house. I enjoyed looking at the cross sections of the skyscraper, the White house, and the Titanic, but I was always drawn back to the page with a Cathedral under construction. It was fascinating to see how such large buildings were built using such primitive tools. Now that I am in school, I still wonder how the architects knew that the walls and roof would stand. Was it trial and error, with massive factors of safety, or were there some tried and true standards?
This fascinating video outlines how a group in France is building a castle using Thirteenth century techniques. They anticipate that the project will take 25 years to complete. The project was started in 1997 but they are still working on it.
It is interesting to compare the castle project to this video of the Tappan Zee bridge project in New York. There are many differences between the construction techniques but also some similarities.
The most obvious difference between the two projects in the techniques used in the construction. The castle is of course built by hand or with simple tools available in the 13th century. This makes the project immensely time consuming because each stone must be painstaking placed by hand. The Tappan Zee bridge, on the other hand, was built with large cranes and machinery. This means the project can be much more ambitious and can be constructed in less time.
Another big difference is the focus of people. In the Guédelon project, all the construction is human focused. People are the most important resources, because of the skillet labour they provide. This can be gleaned by the videography. The clip focuses on the people and what they do for the project. The music and pace of the video is slow but calm. The Tappan Zee video focuses on the machinery; there are very few scenes with people in it. The time lapsed clip shows the rapid work on the bridge, with barges, cranes, and materials rapidly moving across the river. The flashy videography gives the project a sense of being on the verge of chaos, but still manageable.
Medieval Castles and the New New York Bridge share similarities in why they were built. First a need is perceived, such as need for a fortified garrison to protect the local region, or aging infrastructure that is inadequate for the modern demands. Then the project is built to be spectacular and show the power and riches of the region (whether king, or governor).
Both projects are fascinating, because they show the state of the art from centuries apart. Is one method better than the other? Modern techniques are definitely faster and more efficient, but there is something magical about walking around a castle built by hand centuries later.