Archive for April 20th, 2011

Accretionary Wedge #33: Geology and the Built Environment: Past, Present, Future

April 20, 2011

Cross posted from Geological Musings in the Taconic Mountains

I tossed out the topic of how geologists et al. have or would like to incorporate aspects of their professional and personal passions into their built environment. The response was varied and it was intriguing to discover where folks ‘see’ geology. If you’re like me, you probably tell your students “geology is everywhere” and that claim was only strengthened by the response to this month’s Accretionary Wedge.

Anne from Highly Allochthonous illustrates how she uses her backyard for a geologic purpose rather than altering it to serve her own aesthetic interests… either she has higher morals about terraforming backyards or she wins the geo-nerd award for encouraging citizen science with her daughter. Her description of the dangers associated with conducting science in your backyard will make you smile and illustrates how something as simple as a bucket of water on monkey-bars can be extrapolated back to calculating isotope hydrology… and wow that analyzer is small!


Geology Happens describes two different scenarios involving landscaping of a sort; one that recreated the stratigraphy of the Canyonlands and another where someone incorporated an iron concretion into a retaining wall in Zion National Park. I can’t help but wonder why we don’t see more of this type of creativity, government rules, lack of inspiration, lack of time? It certainly can’t be a lack of interesting rocks!


Dana from En Tequila Es Verdad offers inspiration for letting your rocks out of their boxes and displaying them proudly… everywhere! Her apartment looks like a clean version of the rock room’s we all browsed as undergraduates (minus the crystal models of course). She even has zen garden incorporated into her fractal-esque approach to interior landscaping. I think it’s time we all brought some of our samples locked away in the office back home!


On-the-rocks follows suit with a similar mosaic-like approach to outdoor xeriscaping, describing the significance of the rocks and stones integrated into his retaining walls and patio. He has incorporated his passion for geology with the concept of ‘Found Art’ by making use of stones collected from previously built structures. A fascinating synthesis of aesthetics with wonderful stories related to his great-great grandfather. I hope he doesn’t have to part with his collection any time soon. His stories strike a chord with my contribution to this months AW, where I finally provide visuals for the way my father integrated rocks into the house I grew up in.


Hypocentre at Hypo-Theses tells a sadder tale of having his rock garden ‘banished’ outside, left to summer the ravages of time… okay, I elaborated a little and they are rocks, so they will survive. While his gardens appears to be a little smaller, the diversity of rocks and the stories (many, yet to be told) tied to them are as varied as they are obscure! I also think you’ll enjoy the wonderful textures created between the rocks and the just as varied ‘shrubberies’ growing among them. I hope we can convince Ian to elaborate on his rocks more than the rock of the day blurbs, I know there is more to tell….


Ann from Ann’s Musings on Geology & Other Things takes us back inside and describes a seismic event leading to a new table top and how she created a xenolith in her house. Actually the seismic event was her son providing her with an opportunity to upgrade to serpentine table tops. Her experience illustrates the need for one of us to write a “Field Guide to Commercially Available Building Stones” so everyone can correctly identify rocks… Her xenolith was created when she had slate with two slightly different tones installed in her office. Tell me I’m not the only one who saw a xenolith hiding in the floor?


Silver Fox from Looking for Detachment brings us back to our roots by describing her desire to live in a stone ‘hobbit-like’ cottage tempered by her acceptance that having rocks in her backyard is just as satisfying – and safer in earthquake country! I may read to far into her ‘message’ but I think it’s appropriate to claim that no matter how many rocks we collect, stack into neat little piles, turn into furniture, hold back sod, etc, etc., we all prefer our rocks in their natural habitat. Where they challenge us with their complexity, provide a substrate to play on, and a library to learn from.


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