Abstract. Donald Watts examined the use of a geometrical architectural system to the design of a contemporary American prairie house at the Nexus 96 conference.

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The Praxis of Roman Geometrical Ordering in the Design of a New American Prairie House

Donald J. Watts
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA

A new strategy for studying the properties and processes of ancient geometrical architectural design occurred in 1988 with the design and construction of the Watts house in Manhattan, Kansas, USA. The author, together with his wife and colleague Carol Martin Watts, had been studying the geometric ordering of classical Roman architecture for nearly a decade and had learned many geometrical design properties previously unknown to us and today's architectural profession. We realized that while much important knowledge can be learned from the analysis of historic structures, other important lessons could only be learned through applying these geometric systems to the process of a new design. After all, these historic geometric patterns were used as part of a design and construction process at the site of ancient buildings. The Watts house therefore became an important extension of our ongoing research of geometric design processes in architectural design.

Utilization of these geometric properties in an actual design application yielded a number of valuable insights. The practice of the process revealed its basic pragmatic virtues in terms of directly setting out the design upon the site using datums and proceeding to investigate alternative commensurate subdivisions of the datum frame. This directness of application extends to the actual construction process where some of the geometrical design processes are also done at full scale. Such a practice recalls that of classical times where a courtyard floor or building templum is used as a layout table and palimpsest of the construction process of the building. The directness of this application provides a ready feedback and verification of the design in the field. It can also provide the opportunity for unforseen minor adjustments in the original design. In doing so, the process allows for improving the fit between the original design intention and its final implementation.

 The correct citation for this paper is:
Donald J. Watts, "The Praxis of Roman Geometrical Ordering in the Design of a New American Prairie House", pp. 183-192 in Nexus: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams, Fucecchio (Florence): Edizioni dell'Erba, 1996. http://www.nexusjournal.com/conferences/N1996-WattsD.html

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