Rendering showing the proposed design and placement of a old ruins installation that I was commissioned to build on a property not that long ago.
It is curious how reluctant many masons, even dry stone wallers, are to produce something that looks less than new and perfect. They don't want to give up any control. It is as though they are not at peace with the 'inevitable', They are not reconciled to the fact that even stone buildings deteriate. Stone is not immortal and stonework contrary to popular opinion isn't going to be around forever.
A stone waller who is able to make a structure genuinely look like a ruins is not so insecure. He is not afraid to explore the effects of time. When asked to build a dry laid ruin he can dedicate his attention and skill to celebrating the limitations that time imposes (and will impose) on every stone he places. There is a satisfaction that comes with building something that looks like it has come to terms with the inevitability of time.
History lingers in stone buildings, even ones that are not that old. This is partly because the stones are so old already. They have history.
Combine this quality of stone with a vision for what would look appropriate on a property and a mason who knows what he's doing and you can create a very believable, very attractive tribute to the ephemeral. There will be this subtle dynamic of contrasts - the durability of stone purposely arranged in a state of impermanence.
The craft of aging something, be it distressing a piece of wooden furniture, painting objects to look old, or making any number of antique artifacts, is not as easy as it looks.The same is true for making stonework look old. A proper ruins is not something you construct by building it badly.
Rev William Gilpin in his essays on the 'picturesque' wrote in 1794 that " There is great art, and difficulty also in executing a building of this kind. It is not every man, who can build a house, that can execute a ruin. To give the stone its mouldering appearance — to make the widening chink run naturally through all the joints—to mutilate the ornaments — to peel the facing from the internal structure — to shew how correspondent parts have once united; tho now the chasm runs wide between them — and to scatter heaps of ruin around with negligence and ease; are great efforts of art; much too delicate for the hand of a common workman; and what we very rarely see performed."