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Suhozid (dry stone wall in Istria)

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

According to Wikipedia, "suhogradnja" is a construction process in which a structure is made from stones without any binding material to hold them together. But for us, it's more than just that. It's an art where the builder has to skillfully arrange the stones into a functional structure. The art of dry stone construction was even inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018. The nomination for inscription connected eight European countries - Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

Delavnica postavljanja suhozidu

Hot to build a dry stone wall?

Suhozid v naravi

Dry stone construction is the skill of building without the use of binding materials. The structure is supposed to be held together solely by the pressure of stones against each other and their interlocking in both longitudinal and transverse directions. This knowledge of arranging stones is a characteristic and primal building technique, especially in the Karst region and Istria. The style and method of construction vary based on the type of stone and intended use. One type of walls is called "double wall," constructed with two types of stones along the border. There are various types of these walls: garden walls, fence walls, pasture walls, vineyard walls, protective walls, rugged walls, path walls, access walls, and boundary walls. It's characteristic that these walls are composed of larger stones that decrease in size with height, and smaller stones are used only for closure purposes.

In the construction of a "single wall," large, flat stones are used, which are stacked on top of each other without the use of binding material. These walls were built for barns or erected overnight to mark boundaries between plots and fields.

Dry stone walls and it's use

While the technique of dry stone construction is commonly used for building fences, barns, wells, and boundary markers, and was used during the Iron Age for fortifications, it's also employed for constructing houses. These houses are built on meadows near villages, fields, vineyards, and farms, typically using untreated stone. Dry stone walls can also be built instead of embankments or even for creating vertical terraces. In the Middle Ages, a few bridges were also constructed using this technique, capable of bearing the weight of horses or cargo. Today, dry stone walls are primarily built in gardens and conservation areas.

The advantages of dry stone construction are:

  1. Lower construction costs.

  2. Reduced water consumption, as no binding mortar is required.

  3. Prevention of soil erosion.

  4. Environmentally friendly building material that also serves as a habitat for insects and plants.

  5. Simple process.

  6. Respect for the uniqueness of the location.

Suhozid arhitektura

Dry stone walls are versatile structures constructed without the use of mortar or other binding agents. They have been employed for various purposes across different regions and historical periods.

  1. Agriculture and Farming: Dry stone walls are commonly used as agricultural infrastructure. They serve as boundaries between fields, pastures, and vineyards, preventing livestock from wandering and protecting crops from animals.

  2. Terracing: In hilly and mountainous regions, dry stone walls are used to create terraces on slopes. These terraces help control erosion, provide level areas for cultivation, and optimize land usage.

  3. Erosion Control: Dry stone walls are effective in preventing soil erosion on steep terrain. They slow down water flow, reducing the impact of rainwater on soil erosion.

  4. Livestock Enclosures: Dry stone walls have been used for constructing enclosures for animals like sheep, goats, and cattle. These walls provide shelter and security for the livestock.

  5. Architecture: Dry stone construction has been utilized for various architectural elements, including bridges, wells, and housing. In some cases, entire houses or shelters have been built using this technique.

  6. Cultural Heritage: Dry stone walls often carry cultural significance, representing traditional building methods and historical practices. They are valued for their craftsmanship and the connection they establish with the local environment.

  7. Environmental Benefits: These walls create microhabitats for insects, plants, and small animals. They contribute to biodiversity and can support unique ecosystems.

  8. Modern Applications: Today, dry stone construction is not only a traditional practice but also a sustainable building technique. It's used in landscaping, garden design, and restoration projects, blending seamlessly with natural surroundings.

  9. Tourism: In regions with a strong history of dry stone construction, these structures can attract tourists interested in cultural heritage, traditional craftsmanship, and the picturesque landscapes they create.

  10. Education: Dry stone construction is often practiced and taught as an ancient craft. Workshops and training sessions offer insights into the skills and techniques involved, helping to preserve this valuable knowledge.

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