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Our discussion covered a broad range of subjects, including stone quarrying and selection as well as the blending of sculpture and architecture. A common thread in many of our exchanges was stone detailing; specifically, how to use stone in a manner that takes advantage of its three-dimensional qualities. â€œIn my case, I am mostly working with stone as a solid entity, and the quality of the granite is always pronounced. I am not usually looking to use it as a cladding, veneer or a covering,â€ the sculptor said. â€œSpeaking generally, I think there is a great crisis in the world of architecture on how to handle a corner. That one specific detail can be handled a number of different ways to enhance the three-dimensionality of the material and in effect the architecture. Roche Dinkeloo's Museum of Jewish Heritage is a good example of a building with a definitive granite corner detail. I.M. Pei's Bank of China is a masterpiece.â€ During Roche Dinkeloo's work on the Museum of Jewish Heritage, renowned architect Kevin Roche told Petit that he wanted the interior panels of Jet Mist granite to â€œappear as though they had been ripped out of the earth,â€ an aesthetic that clearly demonstrates the true essence of natural stone.
One device for understanding the potential for natural stone is to visit the source. â€œA trip into the quarry can help develop a deeper understanding of stone in its raw state, and this experience will inevitably inform your design,â€ Petit said, adding â€œI prefer the creative chaos of the quarry as opposed to the more controlled arena of the fabrication plant.â€
In addition to detailing, the scale of stone use can also express the natural form of the material. â€œThink of the ancient stone monumental projects where the scale of the stone elements is colossal - the scale of columns, lintels, panels, of great stepping stones,â€ Petit said. â€œOnce stone elements are greater than the human scale . . . then that material becomes a greater material entity than yourself.â€
This type of scale and detailing can be also be found in this issue's â€œClassic,â€ the Shanghai Customs House, which was built in 1927. Massive blocks of granite were used for the exterior, along with substantial stone columns. This gives the building a solid presence along Shanghai's main thoroughfare, The Bund. Despite the continual rush of pedestrian activity, the Customs House stands as a symbol of permanence and solidity, and despite its relatively young age, it recalls classic stone detailing that transcends time.