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Artifex workshop Stonemasonry in Context: Lectures and práctical workshops
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( Miquel Ramis)

The history of construction is perhaps the most neglected resource in history of humanity. In the same way that we have forgotten that the word " carretera " means "cart-way", or that the Pope's title of " Pontifex" comes from "bridge builder" , we are increasingly deaf towards the experience our forefather's.

Let's imagine inheriting of a block of gold composed of 4500 layers . . and being concerned only with the thin, upper last layer, but not caring about the others below it.

The structure of contemporary civilization is cement and steel . This is a technology barely 100 years old, yet we have 4500 years of building experience, mostly by autonomous builders, who have resolved almost every possible problem that we might have or dream of having.

The thin upper layer is there because past generations of builders provided the necessary foundation to reach this level.

The bad news is that this thin cementitious layer is cracking. Cement does not stand the test of time. Nor does steel , at least not our current corrugated rebar.

The good news is that the massive foundation of building knowledge is available for us to review and learn from with our wider vision and experience.

Much of this knowledge is written not on paper, but in stone.

Archaeologists were enabled to decipher hieroglyphic writing by reading the Rosetta stone. The understanding of the stonework of the extensive past enables us to read the History of Construction.


La palabra "mens" obviamente está representada por un sabio barbudo leyendo un libro. Resulta destacable que hayan elegido a un herrero como símbolo de "manus".

Este es el enfoque del aprendizaje constructivista, el "aprender haciendo" que comparten MIT, Cambridge o Artifexbalear.

The concept mens, or mind, is represented by a bearded wise man reading a book. Interestingly, a blacksmith was chosen (we might have preferred a mason) to depict manus, or hand.

This seal illustrates the constructivist learning or active learning approach shared by MIT- Cambridge and Artifexbalear: "learning by doing"

Miguel Ramis presenta en el ARTIFEX Workshop al Profesor Yung Ho Chang, jefe del departamento de Arquitectura del Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), antes de que este imparta su conferencia en el workshop "Stonemasonryh in Context"

Miguel Ramis introduces Prof Yung Ho Chang, Head from the Departament of Architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to the students before his Conference in the workshop "Stonemasonry in Context")


Yung Ho Chang from MIT, presented some of his ideas and latest projects. An architect who is aware of a rich historical heritage, he tries to bridge the gap between past and present and to find new uses for, and combinations of, old materials.

In his interview for the University of Valencia Televisión he mentioned that "...there is a certain level of idealism in this workshop that defies the status quo of Architecture. . . students may forget that, although Architecture is based on design, it is still deeply rooted in tangibility....this workshop poses some interesting questions about whether Architecture is a metaphysical, intellectual experience or something still tangibly related to Craft."



Lecture. Art as a tool for substainable design.
Luis Berrios-Negrón 15jun

Today, the point where creativity emerges from nature is as elusive as ever. The role of creativity and production is at the threshold of an abrupt but necessary reconfiguration that will transform the way we initiate the very formulation of an idea. Embodied energies and environmental footprints can no longer be ignored when objects, instruments, artifacts, systems and/or dwellings are produced. New processes of research, design and development must be developed in order for us to adapt to the new economic and resource demands of the future.

These solutions cannot, however, come from broad overarching ideologies, but from specific, tactical, collaborative innovations that formulate and transform aut onomous cultures of production. Berríos-Negrón presented several examples of his works and workshops that conceptually address these issues while contextualizing how Artifex Balear is already part of these solutions.


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Lecture: Masonry shells as a contemporary building proposal
Michael Ramage 15jun

Throughout the history of humanity, masonry shells have been one of the commonest forms of shelter.

Then, relatively recently, beams and shells of cement appeared, enabling quick and strong construction techniques that did not require workers with high levels of skill . Now we are at a juncture where craft, substainability, individual initiative and design make masonry shells once again a feasible , low energy, contemporary approach to building.

Zero Carbon home unveiled in Kent

University of Cambridge: current research


Miguel Ramis 16-25/6


- Rules, Tools , Safety.
- Mediterránean Design
- Arches and Vaults: constructive solutions
- Sustainable Urbanism
- Errors in Contemporary Building: Technical strengths / weaknesses of materials . (or: strength/weakness )
- Dry Stone Techniques
- Wattle & Daub, Tapial, Bamboo.

The history of construction is a sadly neglected resource . Think about a person living in the present and planning his or her future based only on information gained from the experiences of the previous week ? This, crazy as it sounds, is what we do—disregarding 4,500 years of well-proven solutions to rely only on portland and corrugated iron, materials that have already proven unsure beyond 50 years.

In order to change to a substainable future we must review those techniques and materials that have proven reliable. Stone, brick, earth, and lime, together with wood are solutions with utmost compatibility with us. Like our bodies, they drink, dry and breathe, and return to the nature when their natural cycle is over.

In order to change to a substainable future we must review those techniques and materials that have proven to be reliable. Stone, brick, earth, and lime, together with wood are solutions with utmost compatibility with us. Like our bodies, they drink, dry and breathe, and return to the nature when its natural cicle is over.


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Tatiana Bilbao

Retrospective and projects.

Tatiana, an architect from Mexico, presented a comprehensive retrospective of her work and a personal account of how clients, circumstances and inner dreams had shaped her career. Her country, with its urban tesitures built by the people themselves, offers interesting examples of self organisation, some more successful than others, but all showing the energy of a bustling country.

The last part of her lecture was dedicated to the house for the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, a very interesting example of architect-client co-design.


Philippe Block

One of the most astonishing projects presented at the workshop, Phillippe's proposal for a tripodal, non-mortared masonry vault captured the attention of all the atendees.

His research has led him to design a new computerized analytical method for three-dimensional vaults. Thus, complex forms can be approached and studied in the design process, opening the door for exciting new vaulting projects.


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Curator Carson Chan talked about sustainability and architecture as seen by artists, how they envisage and analyze the evolution and future of building processes.


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Lukas Feireiss, curator, teacher and writer, presented several examples of contemporary design extracted from his several books giving a sense of the scope of what's happening at the forefront of architecture today .


Juan Herreros, a leading spanish architect, spoke about the urge of creation beyond historical references, one of the motors of his work.

Speaking about the island, he mentioned that dry stone walls were one of the most important patrimonies and a keystone the configuration of the landscape.

Herreros Arquitectos

Professor Santiago Huerta Professor Santiago Huerta from ETSAM, (Architecture School of Madrid) presented a interactive explanation of the behaviour of arches and vaults, based on years of investigation and analysis on historical structures in danger or collapse.

A follower and friend of Jacques Heyman, he gave a passionate speech about how important historical buildings are, not just for our culture but as a source of learning about building techniques.

He is a firm believer in the use of traditional building methods to restore old buildings because these methods are the only ones that fully guarantee that the buildings will survive in the future. He also explained that the decision to use contemporary materials and techniques , instead of healing old structures, could actually damage them.

His concern about the last "invention" in the field - intervención preventiva- causes a serious issue: perfectly sound buildings with minor problems are being "restored" in the name of "preventing" them from decaying, most of the times with doubtful methods and techniques.

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Alfonso Ramirez Ponce from the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM ) has for many years explored low-cost and sustainable construction techniques using regional materials such as clay brick in projects built throughout Latin America.

He currently lectures at UNAM and has been an invited professor in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Uruguay, Singapore, Italy and Spain. He is the author and co-author of more than 200 articles and several books on architecture.

His research and several of his projects have won diverse awards, including the "Armando Mestre Medal" in Cuba, and the First Prize in the "Competition for the Technology Transfer for Popular habitat" organized by CYTED. He is also a member of the "Academia Nacional de Arquitectura", and the "National System of Art and Culture Creators" of México.

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Enrique Rabasa Diaz, Enrique Rabasa Diaz from ETSAM (Architecture School of Madrid) presented a survey of the art of Stereotomy, a treasury of solutions for gravity construction extracted from dusty renaissance treatises including clever combinations of arch voussoirs and corbels that died with the portland cement and rebar. Decades later, they are a sound, proven alternative for substainable building.

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Eduardo Ramos was the voice of a new type of builder, one concerned with sustainability and impact on local economy.

He explained how he makes a geo-biological survey prior to any building or restoration, how he selects the materials according to their ecological footprints, the demolition procedures that recover old elements for reuse at the same site.



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