Fun with granite

Whilst discussing indoor pots for a previous project, we were pointed in the direction of some solid granite Japanese pots by a colleague. The owner of the firm that imported the pots, Paul, had worked for many years in Japan as a landscaper, and was therefore familiar with materials and methods of Japanese gardens (and buildings). In addition to the pots and many other objects, Paul had a large number of handworked Kyoto granite slabs and bars - some of which I was interested in for my own garden.

Having talked about the potential purchase of the entire stock with Paul, my employees and I discussed whether we thought the materials would work within a recent project of ours - in which a courtyard with a Japanese sensibility (as well as qualities found in certain of our natural environments) was part of the brief. When I made this suggestion to the clients on that project, they affirmed immediately that they were keen on taking up the rare opportunity of using these stones.

Returning to the reason that I discussed the suitability of the stone with my staff (with whom I would need to carry out the design), the trick of working with very old, handcrafted stone is that what you get (when you buy them) is what you have. You can't simply order a few extra slabs in a certain size, and it is frankly disrespectful (and coarse) to start cutting or smashing such a material into particular sizes.

Accordingly, although the way in which the stone was composed was entirely up to us, the qualities and dimensions of all of our units were fixed. This made for a stimulating design exercise, in which we needed to develop an appropriate and interesting design with a considerable degree of discipline.

Therefore, Rob measured all dimensions of each slab/bar and their respective colours and recorded them on a spreadsheet, from which we came up with preliminary sketches (as shown above). I then cut all of the 'stones' from coloured card so that we could design it in the form of a two-dimensional model (rather than drawing it).

Winston and I then utilised this 'haptic' method of designing to arrange the layout in a way that worked in terms of both form and colour (the latter providing a secondary sense of movement within the overall layout). Working in this way, it was apparent early on that developing a comparatively regulated pattern was the most interesting and sensitive manner of composing the paving. Images of the stone being laid (as well as in stored form within Paul's yard) are shown above.

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