As a practice we are interested in working with local craftspeople and applying their unique knowledge to making and constructing buildings that through time become a natural part of the landscape.
Continuing our research into local materials we recently visited a Sandstone Quarry in the Neath Valley to learn about the processes involved in extracting, cutting and working with a local material that has helped define a regional architecture.
Most sandstone found on our planet is red in tone, however due to the specific local stratification of the Pennant measures we are presented with a beautiful ‘grey blue’ sandstone embedded in the sequence of sedimentary rocks of the South Wales Coalfield. The Pennant Sandstone is from the plateau surface of the Coalfield into which the valleys have been deeply penetrated by water and ice over the millennia.
A particular appeal of the material for us is its natural resistance to weathering, a valid quality when building within a wet climate, and of course its also easy to work with and cut. There is also something engaging about stone forming millions of years ago when the region was desert. Such a contrast compared to today, where it is extracted from the earth into one of the wettest regions in the UK.
Most importantly I find a great sense of pleasure meeting people that are as passionate about their craft as we are of ours. Not to mention the knowledge gained by sharing process, experiences and new ideas. The fact that most of the people we meet in this way have worked with a specific material day in day out for most of their lives, adds tremendous value in discussing the possible limits of a specific material or process.
Ultimately it allows us to connect with a knowledge base that has accumulated over decades, sometimes – even generations. This collective learning informs our decision making process, gets translated into our architecture which in turn gets passed onto our clients as a body of work that is greater than our individual input alone.