The Malaise of Stone

A Modern Old Material

Luis Fernández-Galiano 

Stone and modernity have gone through a rough marriage. In 1956, Alejandro de la Sota won the competition for the Civil Government Building of Tarragona, a city whose urban code, perhaps in tune to its Roman remains, required a stone finish on facades. De la Sota felt obliged to consult Josep Lluís Sert on the legitimacy of the use of marble in a representative work, and received intellectual license from the Catalan master to use a ‘noble’ material that most modern architects then frowned upon. Half a century later, Terence Riley traveled around Spain visiting recent works for a 2006 exhibit at New York’s MoMA, and attested to the abundance of abstract geometry covered in stone, in contrast to the modern orthodoxy of concrete, steel and glass, thus officializing the acceptance of stone in the contemporary palette of materials. No architect today would have the doubts of De la Sota concerning the use of marble on the Civil Government Building... [+]

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