masonry (27)

100-Year-Old Concrete Post and Beam Framing

Hi Lloyd,

This photo shows the structure of St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in Wellington, New Zealand. The church is around 100 years old and is an early attempt at building in a Gothic style with concrete. The stained glass windows were imported by ship from Munich, Germany from a factory later destroyed in World War Two.

Kind regards,
Bill (Choquette)

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Stone Masonry Publications

Lloyd, hello. I’m Tomas Lipps, used to live in Bolinas late ’70s, early ’80s… I was pleased to stumble upon your blog today and have enjoyed browsing through it. One line in particular struck me [referring to the book Shelter]: “We were both fans of Life Magazine, and felt that each two-page spread should stand alone and be visually balanced.” That’s because I’ve gotten into publishing myself. I edit a glossy print publication called STONEXUS Magazine and a digital counterpart to it called the STONEZINE, and in the print mag I’m particularly sensitive to how the two-page spreads are laid out. (The ‘zine is single-page, 8.5″ × 14″.)

Good to see you’re still at it, and out and about. I’ve been confined here in Santa Fe due to the damn pandemic, but as soon as I get issue #XX printed and mailed out (April), I’ll go off on the trip I had planned in 2020 — to Sardinia. Will be photographing stonework there, the Bronze Age Nuraghi in particular fascinate me. You seem to be familiar with Italy, anything you can tell me about Sardinia?

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Restoring an Old Ruin in Cornwall, UK

Hi Lloyd,

Love Shelter and ever since a friend showed me your book a decade ago I’ve been dreaming of taking a copy of it with me to a hillside somewhere in Europe and seeing what might be possible haha

I’ve done bits of labouring and landscaping and walling over the years here in Cornwall, and have never quite managed to earn and save up enough to get a foot on the ladder towards some land here or even elsewhere as life has been quite hectic. However, I somehow managed to come away with enough money to buy the old ruin I’d dreamed of since being 15.

It’s not on a hillside somewhere sunny yet, but that might be the next one, but it is a very special place in an incredibly beautiful and historic area within a world heritage site.

It was built in the late 1700s to early 1800s and the archaeologists that we have to use here in the preliminary stages of the build because of the surrounding ancient history even found a couple of shetland pony shoes (that were often used by the coast here to pull up carts full of seaweed). We also found an old pair of sugar tongs and a half penny from 1861 which was really cool.

From the patchy information that we’ve managed to find in some of the old records it’s likely that it was lived in by mining and agricultural workers as there is an ancient farm 100m down the track and many disused copper and tin mines scattered all over the fields and into the valley.

I’m probably only one third of the way through the works (with some help along the way) towards reinstating it traditionally and working it into a cosy tiny home that will sleep 2 to 3 and maybe even a couple more outside in a small yurt or something.
Read More …

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Fanjingshan Skytop Buddhist Temples in Southeastern China

China’s Guizhou province peering over at Mount Fanjing. Rising more than 100 meters above the surrounding landscape, visitors will need to climb almost 9,000 steps to reach the summit. Look closely at the image and you can see how the stairs wind up and around stone outcroppings and through a gorge.

The buildings you see perched at the top are two Buddhist temples — the Temple of the Buddha and the Temple of Maitreya — linked by a small footbridge.

Located in Tongren, Guizhou province, southeastern China, the highest peak of the Wuling Mountains, at 8,430 feet.

More info:

From Lew Lewandowski

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Shed Covered with Giant Slabs of Slate in Wales

Hi Lloyd.

I thought you might be interested in this small shed, alone in a field up the valley from my home in Southern Snowdonia, Wales. We’re in an area of old slate mining which began in the mid-19th century. and finished maybe 30-40 years ago. The slate slabs on this small outbuilding are between one and two inches thick.

Cheers, and all the very best to you from Corris, Wales.

–Neil Heath

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The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flora in Florence

I don’t think the previous post showing a section of this magnificent building does it justice, so I used the Photoshop “merge” command to paste together 4 shots. Not entirely satisfactory either, as there are some weirdnesses in the stitching together, like the truck that passed by during the 4th shot.

The problem is with photographing buildings when you can’t get far enough back to get proper perspective. I used to solve this somewhat with a parallax distortion lens on my old Nikons, but iPhones have no such options.

Anyway, you get the idea (if imperfect) here.

The building, along with Gioto’s bell tower, is just staggering, as you can see, and this angle doesn’t even include Brunelleschi’s dome (at rear).

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Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence


The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flora in Florence. I hadn’t realized it was faced with slabs of green and pink marble!

20 euros to walk up the 463 stone steps in Brunelleschi’s dome (duomo).

I bought a book, Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, to read later, detailing his ingenious engineering; check it out on Wikipedia, which has a great account.

The fresco, painted in the 1500s, depicts the Last Judgment and includes themes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, with sinners at the bottom going through the agonies of purgatory, which, according to Catholic dogma is necessary to enter heaven. Well, whatever…

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Cordwood Arch in North Carolina

Hi, Lloyd!

Thanks for the books and blog! Such an inspiration over the years. I wanted to share with you this cordwood masonry arch I built in the spring of 2017. It’s at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Durham, functioning as the entrance to a woodland playground area. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I thought you might appreciate it.

I’ve been fortunate to work on a few really cool projects at the museum over the years, including this arch and a series of interconnected treehouses, hideaway woods. The arch is about 24′ long by 10′ high.

The arch is built on a stone foundation. The cordwood is a mixture of southern pines and eastern red cedar. I used a lime and sand mortar with a smidge of Portland and pigment. The arch itself was no doubt the trickiest part. I did some math and made a full-scale drawing on a huge piece of cardboard to confirm that the angle of the 6×6 timbers was correct in relation to the span. It’s amazing how much the slightest change in angle of the arc components changes the span. One other thing, you can’t tell in the photo, but the arch tapers quite a bit as it rises. This keeps the center of gravity lower, making the structure more stable laterally. I consulted with friend and master stone mason Thea Alvin, about making sure the arch would be structurally sound. The taper was her suggestion.

It was my first cordwood project. Before taking it on, I’ll admit I had mixed feelings about the aesthetics and soundness of cordwood construction. But I ended up really enjoying the process, and found that with the right approach, it can look outstanding.

Thanks for sharing, Lloyd!

Michael McDonough
Rising Earth Natural Building
Troy, NY

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