Stone: Past and Present

Private Property South Africa
Charles Taylor

Throughout the ages man has been intrigued with stone and has used it as a structural as well as a decorative element. This article serves to provide a brief overview of how stone was articulated in the past and how it is being moulded into our lifestyles today. A few examples of the use of stone have been extracted from each of the following countries - Israel, Jordan, Scotland, England and South Africa.

From the largely mystical arrangements of stone at "Stonehenge" to the historical crusader fortresses, churches and monasteries in Israel, to the remarkable carved stone city at Petra in

Jordan, stone has formed an integral part of our building history.

The way in which stone was used in the past was largely based on the topography of the landscape and the availability of stone in any particular area. In places where stone was readily available it was used in proliferation and formed the basis of the architecture. In other places, e.g. the pyramids at Giza, stone was transported over large distances in order to achieve the desired end result.

The architecture that developed was largely based on the load bearing nature of stone and as a result various types of arches, barrel vaults and decorative columns developed. Stone was also utilised as an artistic canvas, on which various elements were carved in order to express important aspects of a building.

Advances in building technology have largely nullified the use of stone as a structural or load bearing element in the buildings of today.

Even though the necessity of building with stone has all but disappeared, the aesthetic beauty of stone remains and it is still being incorporated, on a very large scale, in our buildings and every day lifestyles. The main reason why natural stone is so popular may be attributed to its naturalness. It is perhaps our inherent attraction to the earth and its natural wonders that draws us to using more and more stone in our modern contexts and buildings.

There are numerous types, textures and colours of stone that can be used and the ultimate integration of these into an eventual design is important. Contrasting certain areas of stone with modern elements e.g. glass, steel and smooth plaster often enhances a building's character and forms enticing as well as relaxing Spaces.

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