Architectural Association Visiting School ‘Working Stone

2023

Project Role: Co-Director

Project Category: Teaching

In the summer of 2023, Tom Randall-Page and ! directed the AA Visiting School Working Stone. Situated within the Isle of Purbeck, an area of England famous for its limestones, this course offered a rare chance to explore first hand the structural, formal and aesthetic potentials of natural stone.


Stone has been central to architecture for as long as we have archaeological records. However, in the past century it has been largely relegated from its former position as primary structure, to a lesser role as a surface finish; cladding and paving-over concrete and steel skeletons.

In this course we challenged this shift, casting stone once again as the main protagonist, not only looking back to the rich and varied historic usage, but also forward towards precision, high-performance and efficient applications. Working hand-in-hand with a commercial quarry and masonry works facilitated a unique opportunity to consider the use of off-cuts and waste products, and also to consider strategies and approaches to stone’s reuse. In the context of the climate crisis, stone offers a low carbon, local and high performance solution, which is uniquely long lasting and exceptionally beautiful.

Over twelve days we worked as a group to design a new bus shelter for an existing local bus stop a stone’s throw from our workshop.

We witnessed the extraction of geological strata laid down in the Jurassic era, and were introduced to the full range of masonry processes starting with the raw block and working all the way through to finished building components. Working at a local quarry and stone workshop, and with the help of their quarrymen and master masons, we produced the key components of our shelter’s structure, exploring both hand and machine working of stone as well as digital masonry techniques. Finally we assembled these building elements to form our 1:1 prototype.

Working Stone has been featured in MAJA Estonian Architectural Review, in edition no.115 on the theme of stone, and in The Stone Federation of Great Britain’s Natural Stone Journal.

Working Stone 2023 students: Deima Ambrazaityte, Nikola Da Silva Azevedo, Blanche Howard, Jack Jones, Nikola Kechrimpari, Bohdan Kryzsanowsky, Georgina Lombardero, Ismail Mir, Adam Mundzic, Berrie Oh, Felix Sagar, Celine Topsakal, Henri Uijtterhaegen and Hiro Yamane.

With thanks to Haysom Purbeck Stone; The Stone Federation of Great Britain; Szerelmey; Steve Webb, Director of Webb Yates; Georg Kusser, Director of Kusser Granite Works; and artist Peter Randall-Page for their time and generous support.