From Boulders to Buildings

by on May 20, 2010 » Add the second comment.

An answer starts with a question. The question? Can and should we be splitting these enormous boulders all over South Main into something useful?

Having just returned from Europe and seeing some of the most amazing architecture in the world, plus listening to the audio book The Pillars of the Earth on the trip, you could say “Stone” is on the brain for me and Jed. We were in Europe for three weeks traveling along the cost of Spain, France and Italy. Although we wanted to take the trip for pleasure and climbing, our other motivation was to explore the urbanism, the architecture, and  the details that define and make a “great place”- the kind of place that millions of people for hundreds of years have traveled thousands of miles to see.

Largely because of the places we wanted to go climbing, we ended up in a lot of small hill towns, and since we were listening to The Pillars of the Earth, we began focusing our attention on patterns of stone. A lot of Europe is built with stone. In the smaller and less wealthy towns they used whatever the local stone happened to be. Most of the streets are small, pebbly stone, and the buildings are built with more of a rubble stone, using cut stone only for door openings or sometimes churches. In the wealthier towns and cities the streets are often cut stone, along with the buildings, and in places like Florence they have done the unimaginable with stone, from streets to Cathedrals to Statues.

As we explored these places, home in South Main was a continuous part of the conversation; we began an ongoing dialogue on how to implement these amazing things we saw in a way that made sense. Using what you have locally is something that resonated with us. In South Main we have already been taking advantage of the local river rock, using it on foundations, chimneys and even as a cobblestone street. We love the look of it, and there is nothing more gratifying and sustainable than putting to use the very rocks you dug up for your home’s masonry foundation, porch peer or chimney.

But as we explored Europe, the conversation grew. As we kept traveling into more sophisticated areas, cut stone was capturing our attention. We began thinking of all the enormous boulders dug up in South Main for the infrastructure and the continuing supply from home foundations. Those boulders have previously been thought a burden, but what if we could split them? We could make granite foundation stones,  lintels, window headers and sills, cut stone for homes and cobbles for streets…

As soon as we got home Jed began researching how to split stone, ordered the tools and started practicing.

We are still in the experimentation stage, having split only one boulder. Already we see the need for additional tools, but whatever the outcome it has been a fun and inspiring thought process that has spurred on many other ideas… stay tuned!

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Judie Anders
June 2, 2010
2:46 pm

This is an exciting article. I just returned from France and Turkey. This was my first time to these countries and what impressed me was the beauty of the buildings which were built centuries ago and maintained to this day. Many of the streets were of cobblestone which have been there for centuries – in Turkey for thousands of years – with no potholes! Sadly, current building trends are to tear old things down and build new things with materials that will not last.

Green – Sustainable – Local building materials…sounds like South Main is continuing its growth with vision, inspiration and integrity.

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