Ever wonder why buildings of the past are so consistently satisfying in form, colour and texture? Why is it that our Georgian terraces and public buildings, country houses and modest rural dwellings have such an enduring physical presence? While design clearly plays a significant part, materials and craftsmanship are fundamental to the quality of this historic built environment.

CRAFTVALUE, a four year IRC Advanced Laureate Research Project at Trinity College Dublin, seeks to open our eyes to the painstaking achievements of stone masons, carpenters, joiners, carvers and modellers of plaster, wood and stone. Their work animates buildings, adding relief and texture that is modelled by light and shade. From the cap moulding of a demesne wall to the door frame of the village school or the staircase of library and townhouse, the language of classical architecture is made tangible by hammer, chisel and gouge.

Too long taken for granted, this rich craft heritage is now the subject of sustained research and analysis. How was the virtuoso staircase, the marble chimneypiece or the columnar doorcase physically created? How were tools held and used, and how was skill acquired, developed and sustained? Where were materials sourced and what was their impact on craft production?

The CRAFTVALUE team is working with stakeholders in Ireland and the United Kingdom, including the Office of Public Works and the National Trust, to develop knowledge of our shared heritage. Join us over the coming years to explore and deepen our understanding of craftsmanship in the architecture of Britain and Ireland in the long eighteenth century.

The project is also exploring new ways to engage with craftsmanship. One strand of our work is the digital recreation of important lost or inaccessible interiors, such as the eighteenth-century Irish House of Commons as explained in our short film Recrafting Parliament (shown at AMPS Canterbury, June 2020) and in our collaborative IRC-AHRC funded network with the National Trust called 3D CRAFT.

Banner image: Detail of the staircase from Eyrecourt Castle, County Galway, 17th century, elm, oak, pine. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and the Hearst Foundation, Inc., 58.259.