8.4.2014: Gothic Geometry

Image of geometric construction of trefoil tracery (for a Gothic cathedral window.)

I’ve finally started working on my own version of the flying buttress bookends I put together last summer. To design the tracery (the “stone openwork” you see in Gothic windows), I first tried taking designs from Meyer’s A Handbook of Ornament and tracing them in Inkscape. However, I quickly gave up on this tactic: tracing in Inkscape is a pretty imprecise thing, the source images were scans of drawings in a book, and that book was printed in 1898. Whatever I did manage to trace, it wasn’t going to match the geometrical precision that Gothic architecture demands.

So this week I bought a copy of the Geometer’s Sketchpad, a very robust geometry software, and I spent the weekend figuring out how to construct equilateral arches and trefoils and the like. (The life of an engineering student is truly a glamorous thing.) I decided to base the new tracery around a triangle motif to keep things consistent, so I’ve been using a combination of equilateral arches and inscribed trefoils, which are trefoils inside a rounded equilateral triangle. While I still need to figure out the overall buttress design and where to put the tracery, at least the tracery itself is coming along nicely!


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