Saturday, January 06, 2007


click photo to enlarge
What does the word "rustic" suggest to you? To do with the country? A country person? Simple? A complete absence of urbanity? Rude?? Probably one or all of these definitions come to mind. So, you would expect the word "rustication" to mean something like "the act of making something look simple, unsophisticated and country-like". Yet, this photograph shows what architects call "rustication" - the emphasising of stonework to give the impression of strength.

The idea of putting channels in facing stonework started with the Romans, was imaginatively developed by Renaissance architects, and continues to the present day. The version shown above is known as as "channelled, banded rustication" due to the square section grooves of the horizontal-only joints. Another variation, with "V"-shaped joints, is called "chamfered rustication". In rusticated stonework the facing blocks can be flat, as here, "diamond-faced" with shallow pyramids, "vermiculated" with a rough pattern like the stone is worm-eaten, and "frosted" resembling icicles or stalactites. Anyone living in a town or city is sure to have one, and possibly all, of these types of rustication displayed on older buildings, especially those of the C18, C19 and early C20. The photograph shows a bank in Fleetwood, Lancashire. The architect clearly felt that the impression of solidity that rustication gives was appropriate for this type of building. So, why "rustication"? Well, it was apparently thought that the obvious finish to a high-cost stone building was smooth ashlar. Finishing the walls with grooves gave suggestions of the cruder treatment of cheaper rural buildings with their mortar joints and emphasised stones!

I took this photograph for the interesting way the shadow of the tree breaks the sharply defined symmetry of the windows and walls. The reflection of the tree and the brightly reflected light in the right window gave some balance to the shot. I converted the image to black and white to emphasise the graphic elements. This photograph was taken with a wide zoom lens at 28mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera on Aperture Priority (f7.1 at 1/640), ISO 200, with -0.7EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen