Designer’s Alphabet

Starting this month I’ll be posting a little feature I call the Designer’s Alphabet. A collection of design related trivia with bits of architecture, tools, wood, designers, and obscure facts about furniture design you can wow your spouse with.   I hope to toss a new letter out every other week and think I can get through the design alphabet three or four times, hope you enjoy. I borrowed the idea from Greg Shue from Shue Design Associates. I hope he approves.

Attic Base, Drawing by author.

is for Attic base. A moulding sequence used at the base of a column. It mimics the form a tree trunk takes as it spreads to support the mass above it. It’s made up of two convex torus mouldings, separated by a concave scotia moulding profile. Together they combine to give a play of light and shadow that gives the column shaft a distinct beginning. In this case, attic refers to the region of Attica or Athens. Like all classical forms it can appear in many variations. In the case of this architectural example, it adds a smaller torus in the center.

If you have a picture of an attic base profile used in a furniture project, or woodworking architectural project, send it to me and I’ll paste it in this entry.

George R. Walker

Here are some contributions from the designer community –

Devon shared this The tapered column is veneered with curly walnut.  It’s a historically-accurate taper, by the way… the profile is a gentle curve, not a straight line.  Makes for an interesting veneer job.

There are also two proportionately smaller versions on either side of the fireplace. Here are the two sizes, with a panel between them:

Jack Ervin shared this photo from the interior of the Texas State Capital, this illustrates some of the variety incorporated into the form while still retaining the function of supporting the structure.

About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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6 Responses to Designer’s Alphabet

  1. JimG33 says:

    The second base you show is actually a Corinthian base. It figures as the Corinthian was developed from the Ionic, and the Attic base is mainly used with the Ionic order.
    Have you ever read about the gender bases of the orders? Very romantic.

    • walkerg says:

      Good eye, that example is from a Corinthian Order. My understanding is that this is a variation on the attic base. The one my drawing was taken from is from a Doric order. Concerning Gender and the classic orders – Yes, designers from antiquity attributed gender and human attributes to each order and it played into design decisions, especially for public buildings and temples. I’m sure pre-industrial cabinetmakers steeped in this classical tradition were aware of that also. Whether that was a factor in their design decisions when making furniture, is a question I’d very much like to know the answer to. My guess is they saw these designs as standards to draw inspiration from and not written in stone (no pun intended).


  2. Greg Shue says:

    George, I’m thrilled that you’re doing this! Have fun with it – and let me know what you choose for the letters Q and Y! 😉

  3. djmueller says:

    George: This is a great feature for Design Matters. Keep it coming!

  4. Tico Vogt says:

    What a cool idea!

  5. Pingback: Designer’s Alphabet…B is for Baluster | Design Matters

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