The Ice Ray Design

Examples of ice ray designs

Examples of ice ray designs

One of the more intriguing design groups described by Daniel Sheets Dye in his definitive work “A Grammar of Chinese Lattice” (1937) is ice ray lattice. Unlike most lattice designs ice ray lattice has no horizontal or vertical line elements. This makes it most effective as a grille or screen where people don’t want to feel like they are in a cage which can happen with horizontal or vertical bars.

Origins of the ice ray design

To appreciate the designs in this division, one needs to see ice forming on quiet water on a cold night. Straight lines meet longer lines, making unique and beautiful patterns. The Chinese term this ice line, or lines formed by cracking ice; I have described it as the result of molecular strain in shrinking or breaking, but more recent observations and photographs seem to prove that it is a conventionalisation of ice-formation which has become traditional
(Dye, “A Grammar of Chinese Lattice” 1949 pp298).

Ice forming on a pond

Ice forming on a pond

In his 1977 paper, “Ice-ray : A note on the generation of Chinese lattice designs” Stiny did the first analytic exercise with shape grammars which he had invented with Gips in 1976. The grammar he laid out in this paper set the standards for all shape grammars that followed. Shape grammar is beyond the scope of this blog and the reader is encouraged to further research elsewhere if so inclined. I confine myself to the aesthetic aspect of the design and its application as decorative grilles and security screens.

Ice ray design on sedan chair in Jing Hai Hall, Xidi

Ice ray design on sedan chair in Jing Hai Hall, Xidi

Small screen using the ice ray design

Small screen using the ice ray design

Circular ice ray window in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou

Circular ice ray window in the Lingering Garden, Suzhou

The ice ray lattice design is readily adapted to contemporary decor and gives a refreshing relief from vertical bars when used as a security grille. Circular ice ray designs are also interesting and can make fine features on otherwise bland walls.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *