Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Stonecarvers

L.P.Fisher Public Library, Woodstock N.B.
So much work for so little attention.
Think of all the bas-relief sculpture adorning public buildings - how often do we stop, in our appreciation of a heritage structure (if indeed, we do stop to appreciate the thing) and focus in to enjoy the small details which were added so painstakingly.
The Pagoda - Thunder Bay (1909)
There must have been so much effort put into the design - just the right symbolism, the kind of messsage the designers of public buildings would want to express.
 Then the work - think of the often unknown stone-carvers spending months and years on tiny spots in large buildings (writing this has me longing to visit the second floor galleries of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa again). Think of the skill, the intricate and painstaking physical work of grinding away stone, forming the three dimensional shapes, ornamenting the surfaces, making no mistakes. Buildings are built by teams of people. These sculptures felt the touch of a single individual's hands leading them out of the stone. Inspiring.

Looking at this warm grey stone sent me to my bookshelves to browse Jane Urquhart's The Stonecarvers - to get closer to the minds and hearts of the folk who do this labour for love.

The comical watchful owl above was chosen to honour knowledge in perpetuity, adorning a frieze on a small town public library in New Brunswick. The beaver and the roiling maple leaves are a fervent tribute to all things Canadian on the quirky orientalist Pagoda in Thunder Bay, Canada's oldest continually operating tourist bureau.

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