When Architecture Starts to Wobble…

It’s two weeks now since we went to Devon, and stayed in Dawlish for the weekend. But the house we stayed at has been on my mind ever since. Well, often enough that I would remark on it. It also helps that Cilla mentions the effect it had on her on a near daily basis.

The thing is, looking at the house from the outside, it looked pretty normal. The walls were brick, and were reasonably straight. There’s an archway driveway, it’s painted white, and all-in-all, it’s a quaint little cottage.

Then you step inside, and while the ground floor isn’t too bad, the ceilings seem a little out of shape. And climbing the stairs to the second floor needs a change in perspective. Because there isn’t a single right angle to be found. The floor is angled slightly, the walls aren’t straight, the passage turns about 10° over the course of the 15m it travels, and there are parallelograms in each doorway. The photo above was taken with the camera resting on the floor – which should give you an idea of what the passage is like. Then, the house overlaps with the one next to it – the kitchen and dining room are under the neighbouring house.  And coming down the stairs, the doorway into the dining room is around 5’4″ – it hit me smack on the nose if I didn’t duck. But the character and charm somehow increased with each quirk. If it wasn’t for the dodgy floor tossing Cilla down the stairs in the middle of the night, it would have been a perfect place to stay.

But that’s what happens when the interior is made of wood, while the exterior is brick. In South Africa, the vast majority of houses are single storey, brick structures. Here, most houses are double-storied, and most internal construction is wooden. One material gives more than the other, and results in truly unique buildings. And this one isn’t even that old – probably no more than 200-250 years. Looking at some of the buildings in Chipping Camden yesterday, for example, an extra 150 years puts a lot more wobble in the walls and rooves. And going back another 150 years from that, to the Tudor period, it can sometimes be hard to believe that they’re standing at all. Occasionally, they seem to be flying Douglas Adams style – throwing themselves at the ground, and missing.



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