Walls Don’t Have To Be Flat


Scale: ,

This pattern follows from “Thick Walls” (197), “Good Materials” (207), and “Soft Inside Walls” (235)

Modern drywall, or gypsum board has been used on nearly every professionally built modern home for the last 50 years. It goes up fast and can be made perfectly flat and smooth. But therein lies the problem, because by being flat and featureless it is devoid of any warmth, depth, or character.


Walls do not have to be flat, though they do want to be mostly flat. And they want to be smooth and pleasant to the touch. There is just no need for machine-made precision. Many old world building techniques such as stone, cob, adobe, and wood naturally give us walls with an imperfect richness that adds to the beauty of a house.




There is another kind of flatness to consider. Exterior walls of earthen materials look more solid when they are thicker at the bottom. With a wide base, such walls form a natural “Connection to the Earth”(168). Walls like this appear more rooted and substantial and are even said to appear tranquil.




Walls do not have to be flat, nor do they need to be perfectly straight and true. But speak with a whisper. Even subtle variations can provide incredible visual impact.

Try give all your walls depth and character by allowing them to be imperfect.



Gary Zuker is a Senior Systems Administrator at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1989 he built a house outside of Austin. Inspired and guided by "A Pattern Language", he developed 12 new patterns during the process of building his house.
Gary Zuker

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