Fault Wall

With my eyes on all things fault-related these days, as we’re now in the third week of the San Andreas Fault National Park studio up at Columbia, I was interested in a brief moment from poet Simon Armitage’s new memoir, Walking Home.

[Image: Hadrian’s Wall (not the wall described below) on the Whin Sill, via Wikipedia].

While hiking with a friend across a geological formation called the Whin Sill, in the northern Pennines, Armitage learns something extraordinary:

Stopping to appreciate a high and long dry-stone wall that bisects two valleys, [his fellow hiker] Chris explains how the shape, size, colour and consistency of the stones begins to change along its course, a consequence of wall-builders using the nearest available material while quarrying across a fault-line, so the wall becomes a kind of cross-section of the bedrock below us, and a timeline also, and after a few minutes of looking I almost convince myself that I can see the difference.

Whether or not this is even geologically true—and Armitage himself seems hesitant to accept the insight—the idea that fissures in the earth can be made visible in architecture is an implication worth contemplating, as if human spatial constructions, or, more importantly, the materials from which they’re made, can act as signs or perhaps symptoms for long-dead titanic events of incredible force and violence otherwise invisible inside the planet.

(Thanks to Nicola Twilley for the tip!)

4 thoughts on “Fault Wall”

  1. I remember touring England and noticing the churches all have similar architecture but are built of local stone. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to behold.

  2. Absolutely it's true. The underlying geology has a profound affect on the local appearance of buildings. And it doesn't apply just to stonework but also affects the colour and texture of brick and tile and even the sands used in the mortars and renders, in fact even the natural pigments used in limewash may have regional colours depending on the geology.

  3. The first thing I noticed when I moved to my home in central Virginia was that the asphalt seemed to be green. Tuns out Catoctin Greenstone is quarried in abundance in these parts and a lot of it gets crushed into gravel for the asphalt mix.

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