Building is the art of constructing edifices, the decorative part of which has received the more imposing name of Architecture. As the main design of this work is, however, to furnish the most extended accounts within its limits of the mechanism and manufacturing processes of the empire, we shall confine ourselves to the sketching of a mere outline of this subject, and refer the reader to those works from which he may fill up the details. The origin of all buildings may be deduced from the construction of the meanest huts. Small trees tied together at their tops, or connected by poles, and then covered with such materials as nature most readily presented, as brushwood, turf, leaves, and grass, were probably the primitive habitations, in temperate climates, of uncivilized man; indeed, such rude fabrics are still used by various tribes of Indians of the present day. As population increased, and agriculture improved, it became necessary for the inhabitants of woods to seek situations in the open country more favourable to their occupations; hence other means for constructing their dwellings became necessary; and finding the advantage of living in society, gradual refinements took place: amongst these, the employment of stone as a preferable material to wood for the floor and the roof.
By degrees, elegance succeeded to, and was combined with, convenience. The earliest regular buildings of which any information is given, were erected by the Egyptians. The Assyrians and Persians added splendour and richness to the architecture of Egypt, but it was reserved to the Greeks to impart to this art elegance and symmetry; to them we are indebted for three out of the five orders of architecture, namely, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Tuscan and the Composite orders, which complete the five, are rejected by some writers on architecture, because they differ but little from the other three. The Tuscan resembles the Doric deprived of some of its mouldings; and the Composite differs from the Corinthian by the introduction of the Ionic volute into its capital. When about to build, choice of situation is the first thing to be considered. For dwelling-houses, a spot should be chosen sufficiently elevated to be free from damps and noxious vapours, and, at the same time, sheltered from the severity of the winter: the neighbourhood of fens and stagnant waters should, if possible, be avoided.
It should, however, be a spot where water can be easily procured; where drains may be made with facility; and where the principal apartments may have the advantages of southern and western aspects. The nature of the soil should be likewise carefully examined, by boring or sinking wells, in order to determine if a firm foundation can be had. The situation being chosen, attention to the various arrangements of the edifice becomes the next point of consideration. Drawings should be prepared, exhibiting every part correctly in plan, elevation, and section; and if it be a considerable building, a model also. The principal difficulty in architecture appears to consist in properly combining utility with ornament. Of course in buildings solely designed for ornament, as columns, obelisks, triumphal arches, etc. beauty alone should be regarded. On the other hand, in buildings solely intended for utility, every part ought to correspond with that intention. The least deviation from use, though contributing to ornament, is improper, and very disagreeable to persons of correct taste.
The construction of the drains to carry off the rain and waste water should be the first proceeding; next, the foundation for the walls, in which the utmost care is requisite that the floor on which they are made to rest should be perfectly level and solid. When the board plat is laid, the first course of brick or stone should be laid without mortar, for lime disposes wood to rot, that in some soils would last for ages. After this, all the courses should follow with the same evenness and regularity. The thickness of foundations in general ought to be double that of the walls which they have to support. The looser the ground, the thicker the foundation wall ought to be; which may be diminished as it rises, as well as the wall that is raised above it, which diminishes the expense without reducing the strength. The doors and windows should be proportioned to the magnitude of the building. The doors of dwelling-houses are usually from 7 to 8 feet high, and from 3 to 4 feet wide. Builders consider the proportion of three to seven in small, and one to two in large doors, to be the most eligible. With regard to windows, their number and size should be so arranged as to admit neither more nor less light than may be requisite.
Their width in all the storeys should be the same; but the different heights of the rooms make it desirable to vary their height also; but in this much must depend upon the reigning taste or fashion. The windows in all the stories of the same aspect must be placed exactly over one another. The mathematical rule for apportioning light to rooms is as follows: multiply the length of the room by the breadth, and multiply the height by the product of the length and breadth, and out of that product extract the square root, which is the light required. For example: suppose a room to be 36 feet by 24, and 15 feet in height, the square root of the product of these numbers, when multiplied as described, will be 113 feet, which, divided into four parts, will give 28 feet 3 inches to each window. A good proportion for this area is 8 feet 6 by 3 feet 4, and so for any others by the same rules of proportion. For the construction and proportions of chimneys, see Chimney. The simplest form of a roof that will resist the influence of the weather is the inclined plane; yet, independently of its want of symmetry, it does not admit of the greatest strength from a given quantity of timber.
The best figure is that which consists of two inclined planes, meeting at the top over the middle of the building in a ridge or horizontal line. High pitched roofs being most suitable to the pointed architecture, were introduced at the same time," and form one of the most striking features of the Gothic style. This equilateral triangular roof prevailed in private as well as public buildings till the introduction of the Roman style by the celebrated Inigo Jones, and the consequent expulsion of the Gothic architecture. The chief advantages of high pitched roofs are, that they throw oft" the rain and snow more quickly; they may be covered with smaller slates, and are not so liable to be injured by heavy winds; while low roofs, as they require shorter timbers, are much cheaper, and have less pressure upon the walls. When executed with judgment, the roof is one of the principal ties to a building, as it connects the external walls, binds the whole into one mass, and preserves it from the injuries and decay which would soon be occasioned by rain and frost.