I've always been a bit disdainful of stucco finishes. It seemed to be the cheap, cop-out facade material for those who can't afford concrete, brick, or wood. But, as with most materials, the quality of the finished product depends much more on the handling of the substance than the substance itself. In many Baroque churches, plaster is tooled with as much care and precision as marble.
The popularity of stucco is not unmerited. It can be applied directly on top of rigid insulation, without the need for a ventilation cavity. It is a paste, so it can follow any form. But most interesting, to me, is its quality as an artisan material. It is meant to be applied by a human with a trowel. The act of trowelling seems simple, but in reality, the labourer is constantly adjusting the angle and pressure to achieve uniform thickness and a smooth finish. This sort of unconscious tactile knowledge would be incredibly difficult to replicate in a machine.
And this simple combination of plaster and trowel can achieve many nuances.
By changing the tool- a serrated trowel, for example:
By changing the direction of the stroke:
By changing the grain of the render- coarse or fine.