In this issue ofContemporary Stone & Tile Design, we took a different approach in selecting the subject for our “Interview” feature. Whereas our past interview subjects have historically been architects or interior designers, this issue features architectural sculptor Darrell Petit, who has worked with some of the top names in architecture and landscape design .

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. “In 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,” the sculptor said. “Speaking 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.” 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 “appear as though they had been ripped out of the earth,” 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. “A trip into the quarry can help develop a deeper understanding of stone in its raw state, and this experience will inevitably inform your design,” Petit said, adding “I prefer the creative chaos of the quarry as opposed to the more controlled arena of the fabrication plant.”

In addition to detailing, the scale of stone use can also express the natural form of the material. “Think 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,” Petit said. “Once stone elements are greater than the human scale . . . then that material becomes a greater material entity than yourself.”

This type of scale and detailing can be also be found in this issue's “Classic,” 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.

Michael Reis
Senior Editor