Stone Isn’t Skin, It’s Bone


Metaphors of stone in our language are as common as metaphors of the human body. We are ‘chips off the old block’ insofar as we resemble our parents. When we are in proximity, we are a ‘stone’s throw’ away. When we are in support of each other, we are each other’s ‘rock’; but when we are indifferent to each other, we have a ‘heart of stone’. While stone is often perceived as cold, despite its profound warmth as an insulator, this last metaphor affects us negatively not because stone doesn’t belong in the body – but because, as the center of our circulatory system, it is in the wrong place. To communicate where stone belongs, we need a different metaphor.

We talk a great deal about surfaces in contemporary architecture. Surfaces are our first interface with a building- what we see and touch as we enter and occupy them. As a contemporary building material, stone enters into this conversation. Stone tile, stone wainscot and stone countertops interact with wood flooring, painted walls and other finishes as often the most striking visual elements in a room. But while the technology of ‘facing’ or ‘skinning’ a structure with stone goes back centuries, the identification of stone with a building’s skin is, conceptually, much younger. For most of our history, stone has been bone, not skin. Stone was among the first and certainly the most enduring building materials. Our earliest great achievements were structures of solid stone, bones and skin. The history of the use of stone is synonymous with the first chapters of the history of architecture.

When we think of stone as a first material, as bone and not skin, we design and plan better for its unique and beautiful properties. When we connect it to our building structure with an awareness of its own internal structure, our buildings last and age wonderfully. When we show its thickness at corners, not by mitering thin material together but by milling thicker stone, we create a design that both looks and performs more integrally. At QuarryHouse, we work with designers and builders to integrate stone into the bones of the conceptual and planning process, infusing traditional masonry knowledge and state of the industry technique to produce the highest results in both aesthetics and performance. The result is buildings that speak immediately to our senses, but also maintain that conversation deep into the future, as part of our client’s legacy.

Tricia Kerr