Drystone Walling:
an exploration of vernacular architecture through material culture.
4 to 11 November, 2018


Historical studies on architecture often focus on buildings intended for gods, kings or the dead. Yet, the vast majority of constructions on earth are meant for everyday life and work of ordinary people. These constructions are known as ‘vernacular’ architecture. They are not the work of professionals familiar with 'the great architecture' of their time and its fashionable materials, technologies and techniques. Rather, they result from the labour of John and Jane Doe, who used available materials and perfected the most simple constructions.

Among their techniques is ‘drystone walling', an ancient method to build stone structures without any mortar to bind them together. Its basic principle is corbelling: overlapping horizontal layers of stone upon stone ultimately create a false dome. The drystone method is still used today and the Maltese islands provide us with plenty of examples of this technique, both contemporary and historically.

The study of this technique not only shows us the basic principles of architectural construction, it also helps us understand the relation between humans and their environment. Understanding drystone offers insight in the foundations of architecture, anthropology and ethnography, as well as about a contemporary, sustainable way of life, close to nature.

The workshop consists of a theoretical and a practical part, in close contact with the environment and local culture. Through a series of trips around the Island of Gozo and Malta participants will discover megalithic temples, different objects of vernacular architecture and quarries, and experience building techniques that are used on an island where most of the built environment is made of stone.