Author Scott M B Gustafson

Martin Heidegger Explained

Alain de Botton and The School of Life explain the philosophy of Martin Heidegger in five minutes better than I’ve ever heard before.

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Shim Space


Image source: Historic Sites of Ireland

The prehistoric architectural monuments of megaliths, henges, dolmens, and quoits has fascinated me for a long time. The raw power of a heavy stone construction; ancient but persistent, mute but still communicative, functional and spiritual, marks the human occupation of a landscape in a profound way. Varying types work as solar calendars, places of religious ritual and burial sites. The first act of architecture is establishing a boundary. Raising pillars and installing a horizontal cap to create a three-dimensional space may be the second act.

My friends and professional colleagues, Professors Bob Condia and Aaron Schump of Kansas State University (my alma mater) published a paper in Lantern Journal on the portal dolmen at Kilclooney More, County Donegal in Ireland. They discuss the monument in three meditations – An Appearance of Man, The Cycle of Time, and Implications of Shim Space. It is this third meditation that gives the paper its title and the main crux of their argument. In construction, a shim is a piece of wood or plastic used to level a surface or an object when the underlying support is uneven. For example, a window is shimmed in the rough opening of a wall so that the head, jambs and sill are all square, plumb and level. Condia and Schump explain that the presence of a stone shim on the backstone shows the intentional presence of a craftsman.

An architect is present in the Kilclooney Portal Tomb. The physical evidence is the shimming of the capstone. A shim is the mark of the maker;it shows a manifest premeditation for a specific fit or alignment. It denotes intelligence that forecasts flexibility in construction, room for variation given the nature of the materials. Man gives building materials his order, his assembly, commemorating his purpose. A modern eye at such a tomb imagines the variance in rough stones as imprecision, but a close inspection discloses something intentionally crafted: as a shim manifests.

Download a PDF of the paper here from Lantern Journal


Image source: Lantern Journal

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Scalable Vector Graphics


It may not look like much besides a rough sketch of a mountain, but it represents much more. After much testing and research, I have finally figured out how to use Scalable Vector Graphics on this website. Not only will I be able to share vector sketches, but sharing our plans, sections and details in the Journal and on Project Pages is now possible.


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