Saturday, March 31, 2012

Quarry Garden

We visited S´Hostal  yesterday which is a fascinating sandstone quarry located 1km from the centre of Ciutadella on the east side of the island of Menorca.  Quarrying began over two hundred years ago here on the island and the amazing landscape that has been left behind from all the years of quarrying and the way the blocks were extracted leave a maze-like wonderland of sculptural and architectural forms

Each new block of sandstone would be crudely shaped and hacked out by hand on two sides using a thin flat bladed stone pick and then separated from the bedrock below with feather and wedges. Work in this quarry ended in 1994.

This quarry has been restored and rehabilitated and transformed into a series of secret gardens and lush cloistered spaces

There are a lot of strange artistic shapes everywhere you explore. It is evident however that the men quarrying here never thought about the bazaar topography they were leaving behind.

Fredrika, a local waller, points out another large textured area that shows where the early quarry men chopped lower and lower into the rock to extract the valuable building blocks.

There are man made landscapes to be discovered at every level and on so many different scales. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Artifex Balear

Despite a general strike in the whole of Spain yesterday where we were left stranded in Inca Mallorca without buses or trains, we had the great fortune to meet up with Miguel Ramis of Artifex Balear who gave us a marvelous tour of the restoration stone work school he runs in Inca. After showing us all the marvelous work that is being done there he took us on a tour of Palma and gave us a private tour of some of the most amazing stone staircases, door entrances, and groin vaults in the whole of Mallorca.

I don't have enough time here continuing on our 'Tour of walls of Mallorca' to write about the many stone buildings and sculptures and walls we saw yesterday but I intend to revisit this subject very soon.

(Thank you Miguel for giving us so much of your time and showing us such incredible stonework.

The world artifex is latin and recalls a time when it was used to define both alike "artist" and "artisan", hence the idea of using it to define my project, after the idea of the Bauhaus Manifesto ( The artist is an exalted craftsman.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Polygonal Style Stonework

We travelled today in Mallorca from Deia to Lluc by bus. It was a thrilling ride accented by hundreds of terraced walls, towering rock faces, tunnels and scenic vistas of the valley. The whole way we saw armies of bicyclists peddling madly every mile of winding road we travelled. We checked in at the monastery and then some of us went for about 5 hour hike.Later that evening Patrick and I began discussing the unique characteristics of some of the polygonal style of stonework one sees in certain parts of Mallorca.

It is very challenging to try to define the constraints of this distinctive style which can be seen in both the formal dry stone Mallorcan terrace work and some of the buildings. 

Patrick did a drawing for Margot showing how the stones create an interlocking pattern where each stone face, being generally five or six sided, meets adjoining stones along their edges and only bisecting at an place where the contours of both stones angle off in different directions. In other words, two stones never meet one another butted up to the line of a third stone, but rather all three stones can only meet at the point where their straight contours change and veer of in different directions. The angles of the three stone faces are usually more than 90 degrees and often never more than about 130 degrees. 

Some of the large buildings at the monastery have carefully shaped conventional rectangular quoins but then immediately begin branching off into the polygonal pattern as the stonework works its way back from the corners. This creates a very dynamic network of shapes. It would be much more difficult to do this kind of shaping and fitting than coursed stonework.

You can see that the bonding would be much stronger since the stones would lock from side to side and not just up and down from top to bottom.

In Deia we saw three different examples of Mallorcan stonework. The tight fitting formal crafted work which can be seen supporting the elevated road near the top of this photo - the rustic rough more countrified polygonal exemplified by the wall in the middle -and the less attractive modern stonework at the bottom approaching a wavy very unsatisfying coursed pattern. The good, the not bad, and the ugly.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Patrick McAfee and I were privileged to meet up with Guillermo Bujosa an accomplished dry stone waller in Mallorca and a professional instructor. He is retired now having done a lot of dry laid work on the island and devoted a lot of his time teaching younger men how to build in the Mallorcan style including our guide Arturo Manez who has taken over much of the responsibility from Guillermo now and yet was able take the time to show us some of the interesting walls in the area over the last couple days.

We hiked up a scenic canyon trail to see some dry stone wallers working at the Refugi des Tossals Verds near the town of Lluc

It is interesting to note that dry stone wallers in Mallorca are called margers.

I kind of like the word 'marger'. It has a friendliness about it. It embodies all the things that I appreciate about walling and most of the people I have met in this profession. It occurs to me that the word may be derived from the same word we get our English word 'margin' from? 

Wallers enclose areas. They create margins and boarders around things. They build buffers and allow there to be spaces between different fields. 

The really good wallers still 'allow' for one another. There is a very sensible margin of error which needs to be constantly maintained in this profession. We should not be so exacting in friendships or walling specifications that we stifle one another and purposely cause divisions. Most of us are tolerant of different styles and different types of stones and different wallers preferences for building structurally with that stone. It behooves us to not obsess about the rules. 

Blindly pushing for only one interpretation of what it is we do and what an association of wallers should look like, disregards the wide diversity of our craft and the wonderful community encompassed within its margins.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day two in Mallorca - Hiking the 'Path of the Dry Stone Waller'

Ken Hymas was the hero of yesterday's walk from Deià to Soller along GR-211.Eighty one years young, Ken hiked over 8 miles of rough trail as we followed the GR-221 (also called the "Path of the Dry Stone") that winds its way around this steep rocky section of ancient olive groves and ancient terraced land. 

We stopped just outside our hotel in the early morning and bought some fruit and postcards first.

The colours of the walls and the flowers are sometimes quite breathtaking.

There are plenty of walls to see all along the way.
There are places where the walls are in great need of repair.
The erosion caused by heavy periods of rainfall eventually cause sections to collapse, especially if stones become loose and the walls are not maintained properly.

Just as you get nearer to Soller you have follow a narrow road and have to lookout for cars. Side view mirrors on dry stone walls help.

Some of us went a little further from Soller past Biniaraix to see an even more complex network of dry stone walls, as the trail lead higher and higher inland to the east.

Our guides Pablo and Arturo would have liked us to go on even further up the trail but we had to meet up with the others and catch the last bus back to Deià.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wall Together

Some of the DSWAC clan can be seen here gathering at the airport in Palma yesterday on the island Mallorca getting ready to take the bus to Deia.

Mallorca is approximately the size of Rhode Island. Being that small it is amazing to think there are over 10,000 linear miles of dry stone terraced and free-standing walls across this beautiful island. We figure we have got a lot of walking to do in the next 5 days.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Loud and Clear

So we were in the Toronto airport yesterday waiting for the flight to Paris where we make our connecting flight to Madrid and then on to Palma. I noticed an advertisement in both French and English on the wall for an iphone app that apparently will instantly translate anything you say into it into any number of languages. I thought this will be great for our time in Spain. I looked it up on the App Store and downloaded it for a mere .99

After it downloaded and I thought I'd figured it out,I turned to Willa and said "Do you know French? Im going to speak to this in English and see if it translates what I say properly". 

I couldn't think of what to say but then blurted out "I think our plane to Paris is about to be boarding" I fumbled and found what I thought was the play back button, little realizing that this app only translated things back into text format. Amazingly though at the same time I pressed what I thought the playback button the words instantly came blaring over the loudspeaker throughout the entire airport. 
"Les passengers d'Air France vol peut procéder à la porte C35 à bord du vol à Paris."

I said to Willa "Hey this app works surprisingly well?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In a Mallorcan state of mind

Im off today to Spain. Patrick McAfee and I will taking a group of Canadian walling enthusiasts on a 9 day walking tour of walls and stone structures on the islands of Mallorca and Minorca in Spain.

Back in 2007 I attended a dry stone walling workshop which  took place in the village of Deia on the island of Mallorca. Thirty-six participants, men and women from America and Europe, guided by six Mallorcan mason-instructors from Artifex Balear, a stone masonry and stone carving school on the island, successfully completed the technically demanding repair of a tall, curving retaining wall in the local style. We also dismantled and rebuilt a free-standing boundary wall and built a ramp – all on land owned by the village.

This trip we are going to be looking at more stonework, from ancient megalithic sites to newer cathedrals and bridges of stone, and of course, miles and miles of spectacular dry stone retaining walls built years ago to create terraces for growing olive trees.

My favorite part of the trip will be seeing some more of the rustic corbel-vaulted dry stone huts that were built throughout parts of the island.These shepherd\ploughman dwellings are made of rough random chunks of unshaped sandstone and by many standards are very crude, but they carry a significance for me, as they represent the impressive ingenuity of the common people to build permanent vaulted structures without having the opportunity to be formally trained or accredited. The Mallorcan farmers were not afraid of stone. They were comfortable with dry stone construction too.They must have had little regard for those who criticized their enthusiasm for putting it to practical use, but simply utilized stone structurally, practically, wisely and intuitively as they needed it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Faux Dry Stone

It was gratifying to finish up all the inside stonework at the new house we are working at this month. We cleaned up Thursday afternoon. 

It looks like dry stone construction, but it is 'faux' dry stone". 

The mortar (which eats away at your hands, smears the stones, dribbles on the floor, and makes building with stones generally a messy unfriendly business) is all hidden in this 16 foot tall fireplace, with two four foot high, back-to-back fireboxes. All the joints between the stones have been 'raked' back so that it looks like no mortar was used anywhere. After the dust and smeary cement is completely washed off with a mild solution of muriatic acid and water. It looks awesome.

All the granite fieldstone came from off the property.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thinking with your fingers and paper.

The solidity and 'thereness' of rock can sometimes hold one back from seeing a new way of using it. Through the lightness and flexibility of paper, in the form of origami, new designs can sometimes be imagined and then hopefully created.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A tree for all seasons.

The Kerry Landman Memorial Tree  was completed yesterday afternoon.

Jordan Mason and Eric Landman both laboured many days on this fantastic project. A number of their walling friends and family were able to come and help out over the month or so it was being built.
The wall is situated at Island Lake Conservation Area on Hurontario Street South and is open to the public seven days a week. 

The Memorial Forest Trail runs trough part of the conservation area and takes you through the 'Dods and McNair Memorial Forest' where the dry stone tree can be seen on the south side at a high point on the trail.
While people have been encouraged to plant trees in memory of loved ones at this special memorial park , Eric got permission from Dods and McNair and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority to build a dry stone wall in memory of his wife Kerry instead. 

Eric used local rounded granite fieldstones from off the site to represent the leaves.
A lot of them had green moss on them. This green patina added to the effect of the stones looking like foliage.

For more dry stone trees check out  Trees 

Check out Dry Stone Walling Across Canada photo-gallery for more Canadian dry stone features.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Work in Progress

This trailer is for a documentary by Bill Stone about a spectacular dry stone wall that is being built at the site of this year's Canadian 'Festival of Stone' in Quebec Ontario. It's entitled 'A Work In Progress'. Among other exciting events this film and several other interesting films about walling and stonework will be shown at the 2012 festival in October near Montreal Quebec.

Chris Overing is the creator and relentless motivating force behind this ongoing wall project that has spanned a several years and many many meters.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oblique House

Setting the stones so that they were on an oblique angle to the vertical thrust of the Gothic openings in this whimsical greenhouse structure was a technique which perfectly suited the dry stone greenhouse project in Gualala California.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A perfectly square diagonal.

Northern California is an amazing place to visit. There are many places along the coast where the lines of stratification in the rocks are all diagonal. Its stunning to see. Again these formations must have been part of the inspiration for the dry stone greenhouse I designed to be built there and had the privilege to construct over two winter visits with a crew of competent wallers from the States and Canada and Wales We completed it last February.

The gables were built of flattish stones which are all laid at 45 degrees. These stones had to be perfectly square to the diagonal line of the sides of the triangle shape of the walls.

The stones lock tightly together using this style of construction, perhaps tighter than if they had been laid on the flat.
Even the outer stones along the diagonal ridge lock better than if they were stepped.
I suppose its because they all work like slightly leaning vertical copestones in a sense.
The trick is to build in diagonal rows and plan ahead so you can support a pre-chosen cornerstone exactly flush to the sloping plane of the sides and defined by the diagonal string lines.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

California Leaning

Bedrock often appears in outcroppings following a diagonal orientation rather than parallel to the earth's surface. I think seeing the remarkable geological examples of this at Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland in 2008 might have triggered my imagination for trying to build on the slant.

Later that same year I visited a garden designer in California and built a small wall using stones that were in the discard bin of a stone supply company in San Francisco. This decorative border wall incorporated all kinds of different flag stones and slate along a diagonal. The local California grocery store sold a wine with a name which necessitated me buying a bottle just to use it in a photo with the wall in the background. 

The low retaining wall I built in Berkeley for Mariposa Gardening in California was a prototype for a project I was asked to build the next year in Danville California in 2009.

Later that same visit we built a slanted wall and Gothic arch at the Flower and Garden Show March 18th to 22nd  in San Mateo California.