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Liminality in the Tripartite Plan

Liminality in the Tripartite Plan

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In order to understand societal complexities of the evolution of English carpentry, it is important to understand the social forces that dominated domestic timber-framing, until the early 16th century - ‘the open hall’ within the standard ‘tripartite’ plan
In order to understand societal complexities of the evolution of English carpentry, it is important to understand the social forces that dominated domestic timber-framing, until the early 16th century - ‘the open hall’ within the standard ‘tripartite’ plan

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Published by: Dr Richard Haddlesey on May 25, 2010
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10/26/2013

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5.4
The ‘Open Hall’ and the standard ‘tripartite’ p
lan
In order to understand societal complexities of the evolution of English carpentry, it isimportant to understand the social forces that dominated domestic timber-framing,until the early 16
th
century -
„the open hall‟ within the standard „tripartite‟
plan(Courtenay 1984, 301; Currie 1989, 7; Fairclough 1992, 362; Harris 1978, 31; M.Johnson 1993, 55; Rippon et al. 2006, 35; Edward Roberts 2003, 126-7).
 Social theories
In the late medieval domestic plan, the social structure was articulated byemployment of the main structural posts of the timber frame, in order to provide cleardivisions of space (Gardiner 2000,159)
. Although the term „feudal‟ is of 
ten used todescribe the social and military structure of the late medieval period - especially inolder textbooks -
modern thinking tends to “shy away from the term „feudalism‟”
(Abels 2009, 1009-10)
. Matthew Johnson suggests that „patriarchal‟ is better suited
to describe a system
of “good governance and public rule”, which he takes fromMertes‟ book,
The English Noble Household 1250-1600: Good Governance and Politic Rule 
(Mertes 1988). So, if the house is then subdivided into a patriarchalstructure, spaces of restriction and openness can be created (Quiney 2003, 135).
Traditionally, the house is divided into two social spaces, the „upper end‟ to the rightof the hearth and the „lower end‟ to the left of the hearth, in
Figure 1.Often, thisdivision is delineated by the open truss that runs through the centre of the property(see
Error! Reference source not found.
). This central truss forms a fundamentalelement of the English open hall (Harris 1978, 13; M. Johnson 1993, 59) and is atopic that will be revisited many times during this thesis.
 
 
Figure 1 The typical medieval tripartite floor plan, the parlour, the hall and theservice end
It can be argued that the traditional two-way split of the late medieval tripartite planinto bipartite social divisions
 –
 
„low‟ and „high‟
- is far too simple and does not takeinto account what the building is actually articulating. However, there is little doubtthat the service rooms are of low status and the parlour of high status; it is the cross-passage, and the space between it and the hearth, which is open to reinterpretation(seeFigure 2 Traditional bipartite divisions of space). This area, by its very nature, isone of openness used by all who enter, regardless of gender, status and, in somecases, species (Martin 2003, 37).
To merely call this area „the low end‟ does notreflect its openness, communality and, ultimately, liminality. It exists „betwixt andbetween‟ the social divisions inferred by the tripartite plan and acts as an area of 
transition between inside and out, social hierarchy and being welcome or not (V.Turner 1967). If, for instance, the head of the house was to receive visitors of higheror equal social standing they would not be expected to enter a house via, what istraditionally regarded as, the low or inferior end: Surely then, this area needsreassessing. Johnson (1993, 59) begins the argument by suggesting that the hallrepresents space in three ways:
 
1. at a physical levela. by the structural elements that frame the spaceb. physical demarcations of space2. patriarchal symbologya. the dais and the embedded code of social hierarchy
Hall
 
b. metaphysical demarcations of space3.
“spatial text”
 a. commonality between like structures and the landscapeb. remembered demarcations of space.His argument can now be taken forward -
with the idea of Foucault‟s liminality
(Szakolczai 2000, 187-9) - and the three levels rewritten as:1. physical liminalitya. once again articulated by the structure itselfb. physical demarcations of space2. taught liminalitya. passed
down by one‟s peers, employers and family
 b. metaphysical demarcations of space3. cognitive liminalitya. subconsciously formed by our social environmentb. remembered demarcations of space.In doing so, the traditional bipartite social structure becomes tripartite divisions ofspace - the low end, the liminal or transitional zone and the high end. In labelling theopen areas as liminal (V. Turner 1967), the need arises to define how this relates tothe building, as a whole, by using the three levels of liminality set out above.

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