Form Follows Function

by Don Friedman on November 19, 2017


The 1896 window sill in the picture above may be the most perfectly designed piece of architecture in the city. It’s there to provide a base for the wooden window frame, to protect the relatively porous brick from water infiltration from above, and to shed water. It had to be built into the solid brick wall and installed by ordinary masons.

The center of that piece of stone has a five-sided cross-section: a rectangle with the outer top corner nipped off at an angle. The ends are the full rectangle, without the angle; the transition from four-sided to five-sided cross-section is handled by another angled face. The entire piece is 8 inches high, so it fits in the space of three courses of brick, and the whole is twelve inches deep so it fits across the thickness of the three-withe wall.

That oddly-shaped stone meets every requirement and has performed perfectly for over 120 years with no repairs. I challenge anyone to find a way to improve it.

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