How to create architecture that lasts a thousand years
Long-lasting architecture is about style and strong, sustainable materials. But it’s also about using materials that get more beautiful as they age.
There are a few building materials that age with grace, but as the leading company within the natural stone industry, we don’t think there’s anything that quite compares to the subtle beauty of the natural stone.
The ancient Greeks and the Romans developed the arcs and pillars, a style that has been around ever since – from 1700-century churches too post-modern buildings during the 1980s. So that could be called a lasting architectural style.
What comprises a style that lasts?
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s about perception. In his dissertation at the University of Edinburgh, Malte Koeditz writes that much of today’s understanding of visual perception in the built environment is based on the Gestalt Laws. These were first developed by the Gestalt psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka. Their research forms the basis of today’s understanding of the perceptual organization and that the fundamental form of visual perception is shared by all humans. Though rules of the visual organization are not an exact science, they are easily identifiable in our built and natural environment. We can easily identify that repetition and pattern in buildings provide a sense of order which our eyes naturally recognize. Studying the work of the ancients, which could be argued as having a timeless quality, it is clear that a certain visual order has been exploited.
Vitality over unity?
But is order and patterns the only thing that makes architecture timeless? According to Koeditz, in contrast to the beliefs of architects up to and including the modernists, there has recently been the discovery and enjoyment of the unexpected. It is mankind’s apparent need for something ‘new’ which brings us to the concept termed the ‘Informal’ by Balmond. And in 1977 the architect Robert Venturi declared his preference for this approach: “I am for messy vitality over obvious unity.”
Function is a part of timeless style
But it’s not just our visual experience of a building that makes it timeless or not. In C. Alexander’s book, The Timeless Way of Building, he claims that creating spaces that appeal to the most fundamental characteristics of mankind are timeless because they appeal to permanent, biological habits.
Architecture must provide space for the most fundamental habits of human life, habits which are constant, like the need for social interaction. Historically marketplaces are an example of the combination of working and personal life. The supermarket typology of modern society is devoid of any social space and instead focused entirely on sales and revenue.
The material in architecture that lasts
Sustainable materials are also a part of a timeless style. Materials that can withstand time and age in a way that just gives them more refinement. Maybe that’s why many buildings that are timeless features parts that are made of natural stone.
Natural stone has been a preferred building material for humans for thousands of years. The Great Pyramid of Giza, Colosseum in Rome and Stonehenge in Great Britain is just some examples of construction in natural stone that is still beautiful.
But the natural stone is also very much a contemporary material. It has been used in different ways to create iconic buildings all over the world in the 20th century.
Timeless architecture using natural stone
One example is the De Mandrot House in France, designed by Le Corbusier in 1931. The masonry walls of the house were perforated with different openings. Here the stone walls are seen as decorative patterning rather than solid structural systems. Le Corbusier eliminated ornamented decoration and made the stone a weightless skin, a very modern way to make a facade.
The United Nations Secretariat Building, designed by Wallace K. Harrison and others, shows how stone cladding often was used to give legitimacy to modern buildings. Clad in white marble and glass it was a symbol of the bright, peaceful future ahead.
Sanctuary of Meritxell in Andorra, designed by Ricardo Bofill in 1978, was faced with thick stone excavated from the site by Galician masons. This is a sample about how stone buildings have continued to be built in traditional ways with modernity touches throughout the 20th century.
If you want to know more about natural stone, sustainability and how it can benefit your next project, don’t hesitate to contact us. We extract natural stone at 13 quarries in Sweden and Norway. Altogether we sell more than 80,000 tonnes of block stone every year, the majority of which is exported around the world.
For us, quality is not only about grading our stone blocks and taking responsibility for any anomalies. It’s just as much about how we extract our stone, the health and safety at our quarries, and the service and flexibility our customers are entitled to expect.
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Download the infographic “8 sustainable reasons why you should choose natural stone”. Click the image to go to the download page.