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Charpentiers d'Europe et d'ailleurs

When carpenters meet

Carpenters' meeting Carpenters' meeting

In many parts of Europe, France especially, 20th-century industrial construction techniques have relegated wood construction to a lesser rank. In France, this process started in the 18th century when stone became the construction material of choice for Parisians. Styles were transmitted by architects trained at the Royal Academy of Architecture.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, industrial production of bricks and cement and the development of transportation disrupted local construction practices. Engineers and their calculations tended to reduce the amounts of wood needed.
The role of the carpenter, particularly in France, considerably diminished throughout the 20th century. Methods of transforming, shaping and tracing wood increasingly gave way to automated, machine-driven processes.

A cross-border network exists for exchange and for training craftspersons.

However, during the 1960s, the ecological movement brought about a change in attitudes. So-called natural and traditional materials worked in traditional ways came back into fashion. The rediscovery of manual techniques and non-industrial architecture brought the carpenter's skills into the real of heritage protection.
In former Communist countries, some rural artisans were able to keep their distance from the disastrous results of an often destructive brand of modernism, such as in Romania. In other totalitarian countries, a return to traditional knowledge was seen as a sort of political struggle against an alienating system, for example in East Germany or Czechoslovakia.
Nowadays, in many western European countries, various groups regularly get together to meet and trade knowledge. These include the Carpenters’ Fellowship in the UK, the Timberframers Guild in North America, Ars Tignaria in the Czech Republic and the Dacapo school in Sweden.
Public money is sometimes, although not always, used to support these groups. Carpentry knowledge and career options are increasingly the source of economic attention. Thus, in the UK, trusts that combine social, environmental and craft concerns have been set up around the use of coppice wood (such as the Greenwood Trust).
Electronic communication plays a large role in sustaining international-level networks for exchange. Current cross-border exchanges of information and training are curiously reminiscent of the transmission of building knowledge at the time of the great monastic networks of the Middle Ages.

Associated media

Germany, France, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Romania, Sweden
Germany, France, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Romania, Sweden