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2019 Galisteo Street, Suite N-10 A  
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505  
505/ 982.2448  •  877/ 982.2448  

Stunning Cracks
Ed Crocker

Richard Neutra, the iconoclastic (now iconic) California architect whose crisp lines and glass facades reflecting mid-century Modernism eschewed the lugubrious and then-ubiquitous Mission Style, once complained that the photographer Edward Weston "fell in love with stunning cracks in buckly plaster." Neutra wanted none of it, cracks that is; signs of age were an unwelcome counterpoint to the youth and vigor of Los Angeles and Palm Springs.

I have seen a few of Neutra's houses, as well as those of his like-minded contemporaries, and I have to say that striking as they are conceptually, and as well-maintained as their devoted owners can afford to keep them, Edward Weston would find some good subject matter were he here to look.

Weathering is a battle you cannot win. So why engage it?

Well, that is a bit of an overstatement inasmuch that if you don't engage the challenge to some degree you will find yourself unroofed. One must, of course, be diligent about staying warm and dry. Short of that, and particularly when "finishes" are concerned, I am an advocate of the long decline, of observing and enjoying the changes of texture and color and the reflection of experience in my house. I believe one is wise to accommodate experience, not to attempt to disguise or eliminate it.

I recently observed a new crack in the interior mud plaster of a west-facing gallery in an addition we built on our house three years ago. About damn time. As the sun comes through the tall windows on these long evenings, the crack is highlighted and gives the earthen plaster a depth (literally) that in its pristine state it never had. Luckily, the fissure is in a place where no art hangs so I can enjoy it without distraction.

More evocative is the exterior wood trim that I never bothered to paint when I built the place 30 years ago. I like wood; I like when it changes color, when the grain begins to rise, when rust from the steel roof stains the fascias. Three times in thirty years I have applied raw linseed oil to the wood, and each time it has become a little more appealing.

Fifteen or so years ago, over dinner in Philadelphia, David Leatherbarrow gave me an inscribed copy of his book (co-authored with Moshen Mostafavi) entitled On Weathering. We had somehow connected on the idea that buildings are metaphors and, naturally, that all metaphors are about our lives. We talked about adobe and soft stone as we ate sushi. All very ephemeral, I must say. We agreed that earthen buildings are in a special category in that they comprise the most common, and the most ancient, of buildings. Importantly they reflect change in the most optimistic way because they age so nicely.

I particularly like the book's opening statement: "Finishing ends construction, weathering constructs finishes."

Part of the beauty of earthen architecture is that it weathers, it changes over time and, at the risk of being trite, it reminds me that I am a realist and that I wasn't born yesterday. Or in California.

Crocker Ltd
2019 Galisteo Street, Suite N-10 A  •  Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
tel 505/ 982.2448  •  fax 505/ 995.9877
toll free 877/ 982.2448

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