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What makes Norse architecture look Norse?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by S.T. Ockenner, Mar 26, 2021.

  1. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    What about Norse or Norse themed architecture makes it look Norse? And on that topic, what about Mayan architecture?
     
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  2. I don't know if there are accepted definitions but, when I think of medieval Norse architecture, I think of stave churches, longhouses and sod roofs first and foremost. All of which are really distinct and immediately recognizable, as much as classic Greek or Roman architecture is. These all have a "look" and share certain elements of construction, but I don't know how one would describe it.

    Mayan I think of as being geometrically based in its principles and the builders having made a distinct use of surrounding topography to achieve some of the scale and grandeur. I also believe I've read that they oriented their construction of temples and large plazas based on, or to align with, their understanding of the stars.
     
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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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  4. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Thank you so much for this part. Do you think you could go into more detail about what makes these specific carving styles look Norse?
     
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I'm not an expert. It is just that I've watched two different TV series on the Viking recently [one of the upside of Lockdowns].
    I'm going to say do some web-fu and just go hunting.
    "old norse horse carving" and "old norse dragon carving" got me the images I was thinking of.
    Some of it was almost Celtic in it's entwined style. Other bits were more abstract, more like the essence of horse and dragon.
     
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  6. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

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    Architecture of various cultures looks the way it does because of the materials that are available, the conditions it needs to survive in, and the culture of the people involved. The Pueblo had houses made of clay with flat roofs, those wouldn't be feasible in Scandanavia for multiple reasons. Ye Olde Scandanavian architecture had to work with all that snow/stuff being cold/frozen, so they're made out of earth, thatch, and wood. Mayan architecture was made out of stone (or at least, that's the stuff that's still here) and was a lot more block-y. Both cultures had designs/motifs that you see on their clothes, artwork and structures, and that helps identify what cultures they're from.

    Even though they're not totally historically accurate, you can watch Road to El Dorado and the How To Train Your Dragon movies and pay attention to the backgrounds/character designs. What materials are clothes, tools and buildings made of? What colors are they using? How do the buildings fit into their environments? What decorative/artistic things do they put on stuff? Take notes, make some sketches or take screencaps, go into paint and make some color swatches.

    I imagine that whatever you're writing is going to use fictional peoples/cultures, so things won't be 1 to 1. Depending on what you change, the architecture will change, too. Japan has always been a small country with limited resources, so they put rocks on roofs to keep things down, since iron nails would be too expensive for poorer people. The Mongols lived on the steppe, which had few, if any, trees, and they were constantly moving, so structures had to be easy to move and not use a ton of wood. You're never going to design an igloo if you live in the desert etc. Colors, shapes, and plants/animals will be the easiest to change from reality (your "Mayans" might think river dolphins are the most powerful creature instead of jaguars, eagles or feathered serpents, for example, or maybe they don't replicate God's creations {like in ancient Islamic art} so they only do geometric designs). Materials and sometimes building shapes will be a little trickier (no flat roofed buildings in the arctic) but there could always be an in-universe reason for it (your "Norse" king really likes "Italian" marble and his palace is made out of it as a flex/show of power).
     
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  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I can't comment about Mayan architecture. But Norse (or possibly Nordic) architecture has several common elements:
    1. Stone footings - to keep the logs and floor off the ground you usually build a low stone walls and then build the log walls and lay the joists on this
    2. Wooden log walls, traditionally made from spruce or pine logs which may be left rounded or may be squared off slightly. If not painted, the logs become grey with age. Richer families may sometimes cover the log walls with planks. From about 1600 onwards, the walls are often covered with planks painted in whats called Falu red paint (basically a mixture of linseed oil, water, rye flour and tailings from the copper mine at Falun - the tailings give the paint its colour and its wood preserving properties). Logs are used because they insulate the house better than frame walls.
    3. Sod roofs. The roof will usually have a purlin structure, with a pine or spruce turf log at the bottom, held in place with wooden hooks (made of juniper, usually). The rafters lie on the purlins, and on the rafters you lay a series of planks, Between the planks of the roof and the turf sods there will be a layer of birch bark. The sod roof is usually about 15-20cm thick, and is laid in two layers: the first layer is put grass down against the birch bark, and the second layer is laid grass up on top of the first layer. After about 1600, richer families start to use tiles on their roofs.
    4. Very deep eaves - this helps keeps the snow away from the ground around the house, essential if you want to be able to get out after a snow storm
    5. Doors which open outwards - otherwise the snow falls into the house when you open the door after a snow storm.
    6. Carved ends to the purlins, and sometimes the rafters, supporting the sod roof. The carvings may represent things like dragons or they may simply be decorative.
    7. A stone chimney, placed centrally. This keeps the whole house warm, certainly once the fire has been lit and kept alight for a few days.
     
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  8. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Thank you all for answering this. Mad Swede, you were very good with the wider scale architectural details, and Cupofjoe, you were quite helpful with the nitty-gritty details of the carvings! Thank you to everyone else as well.
     
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