Stone Exposures: A Cultural Geology of the Jurassic Coast
Date: 27 April 2015
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Geography
People have varied and complex relationships with stone, in its raw geology and in its altered forms. Often, however, in cultural contexts, stone remains in the background, as a taken for granted and unremarkable element of the material world. In this thesis, stone moves into the foreground. The research presented here explores how ...
People have varied and complex relationships with stone, in its raw geology and in its altered forms. Often, however, in cultural contexts, stone remains in the background, as a taken for granted and unremarkable element of the material world. In this thesis, stone moves into the foreground. The research presented here explores how close attention to those who work intimately with stone can disclose unexpected and absorbing stories. The cultural geologies extracted and presented in this thesis cast light on the diversity of ways in which people relate to, and with, the land; and experiment with a range of different ways in which these relations can be narrated. Set on the Jurassic Coast, in the south west of England, the stone exposures that emerge along the margin between land and sea offer a productive site for developing a cultural geological approach. The limestones, shales and clays are framed, in this work, by the narratives of quarrymen and geologists. The work explores how their particular knowledges are formed, and how they exist within wider historical and ecological understandings. Their narratives bring the stratigraphy to life, and draw attention to the hidden worlds within it. The different priorities and perspectives of quarrymen and geologists are shown to lead in different directions, interweave, or run parallel. The very specific languages and descriptions they employ reveal a level of complexity and richness of detail that is mirrored in the stone. Using an approach that combines close observation and creative practice, this study examines stone at a variety of scales, and in different contexts. The work engages with specific stone types, landscapes, voids, buildings and objects. Processes of working stone through practices of lettering, sculpture and masonry elicit understandings of the material that reach far beneath its surface. The absent spaces of quarries are then explored, showing how voids can be animated with knowledge, and how destructive processes can generate creative potential, when sensitively worked and considered. Lastly, the study draws all these ideas together in a discussion of stone assemblages in buildings, to see how voices from geology and quarrying can foster greater understanding of how buildings were constructed in the past, and how we conserve them into the future.
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