Theses Master's

History and Materiality of Rustic Ferrocement Sculptures

Gershenhorn, Suki

This thesis discusses the history of rustic landscape structures and their technical evolution. The tradition began with stone masons tooling rocks to achieve a more naturalistic aesthetic, a technique that was popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. During the Industrial Revolution, the advent of modern materials such as portland cement yielded new techniques for mimicking nature, including ferrocement construction systems. The use of cement in this way began in France in the early 1840s, becoming popular throughout Europe and, in the late 19th century, South America.

In different languages, these small-scale structures are described in different terms, each with its own implication. "Faux bois" in French is a simple reference to the imitation of wood. In Spanish, the term is "trabajo rustico" or rustic work. The broader term "rustic ferrocement sculpture" describes works mimicking grottos, rustic stones and wood, constructed with a relatively simple system that uses reinforced cement mortar.

Throughout the 20th century, the rustic ferrocement style was transmitted throughout the US, utilized generally by immigrant craftsmen. The forms became more complicated and detailed, and were seen in several types of landscapes, including cemeteries, church yards, parks and estates. This thesis is an investigation of the history and technology of several works, and of their cultural and physical context, along with a discussion of contemporary conservation methods for these folk art sculptures.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Weiss, Norman R.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2015