Monday, July 29, 2013

Transitional Dry Stone Elements


        Transitional Dry stone elements in the landscape help us read and move through it more smoothly, flowing from one point to the next. They strengthen connections between plantings and hardscaping, indicate relationships with materials and pattern languages, provide us with contrast, give us direction physically & visually with destination features, as well as providing high quality dry stone structures. A landscape may require stairs, a dry stone retaining wall, an arch, a dry stone fence, or any number of other stone elements to solve an existing transition. Each site is unique to the landscape, design parameters, materials, and budget.



In this simple transition it is fairly obvious that we needed a retaining wall to hold back soil as well as creating a clean boundary between the driveway and the landscape.

We built a 4' tall by 60' long dry stone retaining wall using a Montana Slate, and cleaned up the hillside of blackberries. The cedar  was critically damaged by previous excavators.


       Some transitions are awkward grade changes that require very clear traffic control solutions coupled with creativity and beautiful stone work. This grade change over 11' was so strong that we decided to break the stairs into two separate landings.



The large boulder is Olivine and the low dry stone retaining wall is Montana Slate.

This project needed stairs, dry stone retaining walls, flat work, and raised parking spots in the front of the house. This was the most interesting transitional element to build because we were able to design the dry stone retaining wall to have a corner with stairs, that at 24" in height also functioned well as a bench.
Here our dry stone retaining wall turned into stairs to provide a transition between the patio area and the upper gardens


Some of my favorite sites to work in are in tight city lots with steep slopes. 

Transitional elements in the landscape can function in a multitude of ways... 

-They can provide emphasis & contrast between spaces....
In these cases between the driveway and the entrance .








Some of these elements are more artistic and architectural in nature and visually draw us in as destinations in the landscape.



This 11' tall Inukshuk weighs 18 tons. My friend Cameron Scott and I built this for the Seattle Flower and Garden Show in 2008. People flocked here to have their pictures taken in front of it.
This large piece of granite we used for a wall end  was a  great detail for the stairs, landing and bench.
This is a dry stone fence I rebuilt in Shaker Village Kentucky . I loved  how the small  lunky detail allowed for animals and water to pass through, as well as accommodate the roots of the tree.

This is a detail from a dry stone Gothic Arch Cameron & I built for the same display that year. Again people were drawn to this detail instinctually because of the importance placed on the transition between landscape and pathway. 



All of these elements are dry stone structures. I often find myself thinking lineally as just building as a dry stone waller and landscaper, but there is so much more to these structures than just that. 

Stone... structure... function... landscape... portals... man... stories... transitions...

I think the symbolism is endless depending upon what thread you head down along that path.











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