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Traditional skills belong in modern architecture

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It is good to hear that Butcher Plasterworks is looking to expand into contemporary architectural work (AJ 23.5.02).

I, for one, believe that traditional craft skills have a lot to offer to modern architecture.

I was concerned that the article implied that fibrous plasterwork is the only way to produce high-quality plaster mouldings. While fibrous plasterwork is a traditional and skilled process, it really only came into existence in the mid 19th century. Before then, run mouldings were generally formed in-situ. There are specialists who practise these even more traditional skills, who can form accurate ellipses and circles on site, and craftspeople who hand-model decoration.

Plaster, in its varied forms, is a beautiful and adaptable material. I am delighted to see a firm like Butchers taking the initiative in raising awareness of its potential uses. Fibrous plaster lends itself to off-site fabrication and, in most cases, is the only practical way to produce highquality mouldings for new buildings. There are, however, other skilled craftspeople out there and, although most of them are working on conservation projects, I believe there is potential to use their skills in contemporary ways.

Tim Ratcliffe, Oswestry, Shropshire

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