The Art of Dry Stone Walling

Once again we’ve had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with award-winning landscape architect Paul Brydges, owner of Brydges Landscape Architecture Inc, on this occasion to discuss a very old and very timeless way of constructing beautiful stone creations that leave a lasting impression.

So exactly what is “Dry Stone Walling” or “Dry Stacking”?

Dry stone, sometimes called dry stacking or in Scotland, dry stane, is a building method in which structures are built from stones without the use of any mortar to bind them together. Dry stone structures are stable because of their unique construction method, which is characterized by the presence of a load-bearing façade of carefully selected interlocking stones.

Dry stone construction is best known in the context of stone walls, traditionally used for the boundaries of fields and churchyards, or as retaining walls for terracing, but full dry stone sculptures, buildings, bridges, and other structures also exist.

Paul describes dry stone: “In a word, timeless. Dry stone wall structures and buildings, as well as fences and walls, are all based on the same ancient principals. No mortar is required for construction, provided that a skilled craftsman constructs the project. The natural character and beauty of stone can be shown no better than when put into context with itself. Since each stone has unique undulations, as the structure’s height grows, weight is continually added on top of each stone to use the stone’s natural features to lock the structure together.”

This also provides us with an insight as to how, if built properly, this type of construction can be built to last for generations to come.

Paul has a passion for History and has travelled extensively throughout the US and Canada, where several historical sites boast many structures constructed in the dry stone methodology. While it’s quite obvious that these types of structures were designed out of necessity many years ago, today it represents an elegant and aesthetically diverse choice to add to or finish off your own landscape projects.

Interestingly, the dry stack process is predominantly based on the same principals as those used on the Egyptian pyramids. As Paul explains; “It’s a craft that was popularized in Great Britain and Europe over a couple of thousand years. Early Europeans brought this knowledge with them when they came across the Atlantic.”

Asked about the advantages of dry stacking, Paul lays it out for us:

“Longevity, first and foremost. Very few other materials or techniques will outlast the dry stone wall home, wall, fence, or other structure. And incredible aesthetics, as the natural stone used by itself showcases each individual stone within the structure, and highlights how each stone relates to the other. Finally, versatility is a big advantage. Walls can be straight, curved, bowed up or down, built around existing elements, and can adapt as required due to site conditions or changes to the design.”

“Dry stacking represents a more natural construction technique that is much less invasive on the environment. It utilizes local materials, not imported from offshore or produced in a manufacturing process. It will withstand the freeze-thaw cycles of Canadian winters, and is repairable if damaged. It has the ability to mimic natural features such as the Niagara Escarpment to create a more relaxed and natural landscape aesthetic.”

While the cost of this particular craftsmanship may initially be higher than others, the workmanship and classic heritage style is worth well more than the price tag. With dry stack construction, you are truly getting a one of a kind creation which not only becomes aesthetically timeless, but structurally will truly stand the test of time.

WRITTEN BY: KELLI M. MADDOCKS | RESOURCES: PAUL BRYDGES, BRYDGES LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE INC.

Author: LivingSpaces

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