An architect goes to a stone quarry

I’m so looking forward to seeing the stone exhibits at this year’s Coverings show! I have a special appreciation for Italian stone after seeing it quarried up-close-and-personal near Verona, Italy. I had the privilege of attending the ‘Designing with Natural Stone’ course for architects awhile ago. A highlight of the week was seeing stone pieces as big as railroad cars tumble down the side of an open pit quarry. Here are some pictures to take your there… you’ll have to imagine the incredible sounds for yourself.
This picture (above) includes nearly 20 architects standing in the shovel of a gigantic front-end loader with tires over 7 feet tall. I know a few contractors who would say, ‘Great, now toss them into the quarry pit and don’t tell anybody!’ We picked a beautiful day but rain from the previous day turned the ground to mush. That’s why we’re all wearing blue trash bags for foot gear (it’s not a fashion trend destined for Milan).

Our guide, Vince Marazita, had been there many times but never seen the stone being ripped from the quarry walls. Our timing was perfect. The quarrying method we witnessed began with holes drilled into the stone, followed by bladders that are filled to rupture the stone into dimensions that accommodate front-end loaders and cutting machines. In this picture you see the next step. The giant shovels are prying the stone loose from the quarry wall in gigantic chunks.

The stone pieces are then moved to the top of the quarry using heavy equipment. In this picture you see the stone being cut into smaller rectangular pieces to transport by truck to a stone fabricator. This cutting process uses a high speed chain moving over the stone under a steady stream of water. Friction cuts the stone and cool water keeps the chain from burning. The fabrication process is next but that’s another story in itself!
Sculptors experience their creations emerging from stone as they chisel away. In our visit, we witnessed stone emerging from the earth where it was created over eons of time. It’s an incredible experience and forever changed the way I view and appreciate stone. I’m looking forward to the offerings of the tile and stone industry at Coverings this year!

Mark Johnson writes the blog Markitect and you can find him there.