30 June 2009

artifex defined



artifex : latin : author, artist, artisan, maker


some key players on the last night of celebration in the stone village of valldermosa
photo courtesy of tony

two weeks ago when i first told people i was going to mallorca (one of the balearic islands off the southern coast of spain), most of them asked if it was for vacation. or honeymoon. or both. sure, a mediterranean isle with sun, sand, and its fair share of fun might be just that, but it was actually for a stone masonry workshop hosted by artifex balear. that response raised even more eyebrows, and even i didn't know exactly how to explain what it was outside of learning about stone houses in the vein of the flintstones.
i finally got some answers - and even more questions posted - once actually in spain for the past two weeks.

i was greeted at the airport by the enthusiastic miguel ramis, the stone mason maestro who started artifex about 20 years ago. he's the epitome of the self-educated man in the sense that, after years of dissatisfying work in marketing management, he turned to the trade of his father - stone masonry - and started to learn the craft himself, do investigative research, and eventually start a masonry school. and he really did his homework! although i can't really read spanish (only pretend to - and hopefully will remedy that soon), the school's website is chock full of photos and descriptions on just about every facet imaginable of traditional stone masonry. and more.

but his ideas were having a hard time getting off the island, or even spreading to those on the coasts (artifex is located in inca, near the center of mallorca). in come luis berrios-negron who, with his fellow mit alum michael ramage, collaborate with miguel to find ways to not only keep the stone masonry tradition alive, but see how it can become relevant to contemporary practice.

one of the cool things about the workshop was the fact that this question is still left unanswered. we had loads of experts in the field, from well known architects (ex. tatiana bilbao, juan herreros, our dept. head yung ho chang) and architectural curators to water resource experts and stone masons come and speak about their various approaches to stone. some were, of course, more practical or esoteric than others. but the question still stood:

how is stone construction relevant in the 21st century? and what innovations can come of it?

that kept on popping up throughout the 2 weeks, and the answer was constantly: it's for you to go and find out.

food (or stones) for thought... overall the words i've used to describe the workshop have been "cool, amazing, awesome, fun, tiring, inspirational, eye opening, frustrating," but more descriptive words, photos and stories to come as i process them.