Substitutes for Stucco

Last week, our friend John Anderson gave me the go ahead to share anything from his Facebook stream. He may revoke that open license at some point, but while I can, I couldn't help but share two photos he recently posted along with his remarks. File this under "lost knowledge" or "why things just don't seem right".

As per John:

Try to imagine an entire faux main street/lifestyle center in which the store fronts jump up and down and in and out. Now imagine that every third store employs this veneer. ...

Here's the direct insight on the photo above:

I think that this weird faux stone veneer is the the most common unfortunate substitute for stucco. It has the combined disadvantages of costing more than stucco while looking fake the minute it goes up, and then it looks worse with age and normal wear. I suppose it would make decent road base if peeled off the building 10 years down the line.

And here's what his trained eye sees on that photo:

A closer view. In order for this veneer to look decent, you would have to train the installers to think like masons, aware of how weight and stresses would be transferred and what a struck dry mortar joint would look like between two pieces of cut stone. If you go through all of that trying to make fake stone look real, you might as well use actual stone veneer. Sigh.

I think of all the cities around where I live -- Central Minnesota -- that have tried to enshrine their "up north" character by requiring the gas stations, strip malls, drive throughs and big box stores to use this stucco substitute. Instead of saving our character, we've made a cartoon of it, one that is quickly falling apart in front of our eyes.

John's final word, while not addressing that folly directly, describes it perfectly:

Unfortunately, crappy work is more about carelessness and bad habits than anything resembling a deliberate effort to undermine civilization. It is usually best not to attribute something to malicious intent when it can be more easily explained by a couple of humans not knowing what they were doing. #ochamsotherrazor.