Limestone is an ancient material deposit that composes almost 10% of all sedimentary rock found on the planet. It has been used by architects for thousands of years: everything from the Pyramids of Giza, to the rapidly industrializing cityscapes of the 19th and 20th centuries, to Mies van der Rohe’s classic Barcelona Pavilion features this reliable and long-lasting building material. Limestone has also been used in rural vernacular homes where it can be found in local quarries close at hand to communities. Many contemporary architects have played off this history of grand monuments and simple dwellings in the context of the private home. In its pliable and flexible states, limestone evokes both the rough-hewn qualities of traditional building materials and a polished refinement.
While it is relatively plentiful and found in diverse regions, the material is an expensive choice for the domestic home. Architects have often used it as an exterior cladding to the skin of the structure where it can serve textural or decorative purposes. Others have opted for huge slabs of the stone, which lends the building a reserved appearance at first glance, but reveals unique qualities upon closer inspection such as its varicolored veins. The following homes feature a balance between the imperfect tactile qualities of the stone and the material’s sumptuous finishes. While its popularity has risen and faded over time, limestone lends a timeless feeling of earthy sophistication to the home.
This single-family house sited adjacent to a stone quarry in Mallorca, Spain features an open courtyard isolated from the noise and density of the surrounding neighborhood. Its limestone walls honor the material composition of the site and provide a calming domestic tranquility.
Split House by K/R
Split House is situated in a more secluded site among a small forest clearing. Set atop two limestone-clad plinths that raise the main living and sleeping spaces, the residence has dark wooden siding that contrasts the gray stone walls below.
This home in a mostly agricultural region in Poland uses gabion baskets filled with local limestone as exterior cladding meant to evoke the local landscape and blend into its surroundings. The broken rocks recall traits from the vernacular architecture and geological makeup of the site.
The limestone concrete retaining wall of this one-story home overlooking Lake Zurich and the Swiss Alps help frame a horizontal orientation on the sloping site that leads down to the lake. The smooth finishes and textured surface of the limestone reflects different light throughout the day in the minimal open space of the courtyard.
The limestone-paved courtyard of this San Francisco townhouse is inspired by Japanese gardens and offers a respite from the busy city life outside the home. The use of limestone both inside and out encourages the home’s occupants to take advantage of the verdant open space.
After unsuccessfully trying to salvage a crumbling stable, the architects created a new structure that nonetheless echoes the previous building and incorporates a number of highly sustainable elements. Using a combination of solar and hydropower, as well as a southern orientation, the architects were able to reduce the overall energy consumption of the home. The façade is a mix of local stone and limestone concrete.
The sand-colored tones of the limestone used throughout this coastal beach house form a visual continuity between outside and inside. The use of wood on the interior and the zinc metal cladding on the exterior add a warm counterbalance to the stark limestone surfaces.
This contemporary addition to a limestone colonial home showcases the stone’s varying tactile materiality. The older structure has limestone rubble walls, contrasted by the addition’s smooth rammed, limestone bricks. The program called to renovate and expand the kitchen, dining, bathroom and laundry.