History has shown us that our ancestors preserved a profound knowledge about the environmental conditions and the physical needs of human beings when looking for shelter. Despite technological advances and the evolution of the way of observing the world, this type of knowledge, and the relationship with what surrounds us, can still be applied today and adapted to our realities. This can be seen when exploring the use of natural stones in architecture, evidenced in its various forms of action.
The history of mankind is intrinsically related to the use of stones as tools and as raw material. Just as an ax, made of stone and wood, is considered to be the oldest tool known today, stone as a fundamental element of buildings is also a protagonist in the development of construction techniques and architecture.
Since 4200 BC in the Neolithic villages of Western Europe, the use of stones in buildings was considered an important architectural, astronomical, and community innovation. Megaliths, whose etymology means “large stone”, were structures used as tombs, astronomical observatories, shelters, or landmarks.
Some of these structures can still be seen today, in Scotland and Ireland. In addition to these, the history of architecture, and the history of construction, hold a series of experiences that place natural stone as an important raw material for buildings, as we see in the funerary complex on the Giza peninsula, or even in the imposing buildings of the Greek civilization, of Roman civilization, and later, with the constructions of the Middle Ages.
Rocks are elements taken from the soil that have their properties defined based on the variety of minerals in their composition, and also the geological processes by which the material was subjected.
These conditions define the type of rock, and therefore, what may be its applicability within various industrial fields, such as civil construction.
Among its variations, stones are applied in different stages of construction, and can appear from aggregates in cement, structural elements of walls, walls, and bridges, and even as floor and wall coverings.
— see the article: is granite good for construction?
The natural stone today
Historically, stones were used as structural elements of buildings.
Over time, and with the evolution of construction techniques, the advent of reinforced cement, and the metallic structure, this practice has become less common, however, some architects still opt for stone structures, as is the case of Casa em Livadia, in Greece.
From a mixture of natural materials and techniques, the architects opted for stone walls and walls extracted locally, leaving the stones exposed internally.
There are also some architects who choose to incorporate the stones into the structures, usually as prominent elements, such as GreenHouse, which practically uses the metallic structure to encapsulate the stones.
When the OTTOTTO studio removed the plaster from the walls of this house, it discovered two imposing stone walls. Their beauty forced them to keep them in sight, adding only a new layer, in the metallic mesh.
Using stones as a contrasting element in renovations is an interesting device for residential projects. At Casa Ex Fábrica Richaud, by Richaud Arquitectura, highlights the ancient construction techniques of the Yucatán Peninsula and integrates them with modern practices through the recovery and restoration of a piece of history. In this house, in addition to the old stone walls, we see new finishes in natural stone and also the contrast with the smooth, plastered, and colored walls. We can also see the use of stone not only as a structure and finish but also as a prominent object, in the bathroom sink.
Another way to use natural stone as a constructive element, and also as a decorative element, is the execution of stone walls that bring more privacy to the houses. Casa das Pedras, by Hueb Ferreira Arquitectos, has stone walls and walls that help and give this house the air of “refuge” that was intended. In addition, the house also uses stones to highlight some environments, such as the social area.
In addition to considering stones as constructive elements, nowadays, they are more commonly applied as cladding elements. The rough stones, as we saw in the examples above, are a way of inserting natural textures into architecture. Another option is to use rough stones but cut them into pieces, as is the case of this house in Spain designed by Hiha Studio, which uses the contrast between the wood, the mud wall, the brick wall, the glass, and the natural stones of the floor to achieve a harmonious result.
The use of polished stone as a finish is a choice that has fallen into disuse due to new material technologies that often use stone patterns and colors to simulate this material. Choosing a natural stone is a choice that can be associated with the concepts of sustainability and the desire to connect with the land and nature. In this way, the use of these natural textures and colors can highlight the objects, as is the case with this recovered apartment in Portugal, which uses slate as a shelf in the living room and as a covering for a sink and bathtub in the bathrooms.
The Container House is a project that mixes the use of natural stone with new synthetic materials that reproduce the stone pattern. The environments were taken by shades of white that have a leading role in the function of expanding the space and composing the minimalist climate with an impeccable finish so that the container itself and all its industrial and corrugated structure was imperceptible to the eyes.
In addition to the internal finishes, the house highlights a bench sculpted in Brazilian granite designed by the office, mounted on the site with 204 identical plates forming a spiral, which elevates the element in natural stone to a work of art. There are many possibilities for using stones as part of the architecture, either as a structure, finish, or even as a prominent object.
The renovation of Casa Trajadura in Vila Coura Agroturismo, which brings the transformation of an agricultural house into an agrotourism apartment, uses natural stones exploring all its original, raw, cut, and natural attributes. Even with the premise that the interventions should be silent enough to not be noticed, or to dispute the attention for the pre-existing, the stones still stand out discreetly, within the set.
With its variety of textures, properties, and applications, and also, with its ability to bring out the history of the place, the relationship with the landscape, the demonstration of constructive techniques, and also to become the great differential of a project, natural stones continue to demonstrate why they follow the evolution of the history of construction, either as a protagonist or as a basis and inspiration.
This article was adapted from the original Giovana Martino. “Pedra natural: o uso de rochas em interiores residenciais” 11 Mai 2021. ArchDaily Brasil. Acessado 13 Mai 2021. <https://www.archdaily.com.br/br/961490/pedra-natural-o-uso-de-rochas-em-interiores-residenciais> ISSN 0719-8906