Retaining Wall Comparison - Style and Structure
This side by side comparison shows how two very similar properties can be landscaped in completely different styles. One has a more natural layout using curves and the Rosetta Outcropping walls, made of heavy precast retaining blocks, mimic natural stone. It has a full, but low maintenance planting style. The second newer rebuild has a more modern contemporary layout with the shapes of the walls, patio, and lawn areas, and leaves the lower terrace sloping with a few plants to reduce the cost of the project while still providing lots of usable flat space.
We designed and landscaped these two properties in Tuscany almost ten years apart. The first property, with the tan retaining block, we did from a new build. The second was originally landscaped by a different company, and unfortunately those walls failed, so we were called in to re-design and implement a new landscape.
What these two sites have in common is they are walkout homes on a steep slope toward a ravine on engineered grade. The vertical drop from the walkout to the back fence averages twelve feet (3.5m). Retaining wall systems are quite costly to properly install, so in both cases getting the most usable space without fully retaining the grade was the objective.
The forces of water and gravity are the two main concerns in retaining wall systems. Both retaining systems we used on these projects are engineered for this type of application and special attention was given to directing surface and ground water around the walls to the ravine. If water is allowed to build up behind the walls the force will push them over or apart, which is what happened to the original landscaping done by others on the one site. We also incorporated a terraced layout to both properties giving more interest and increasing the function of the different levels. The terracing also eliminates the need for one massive, engineered wall that would take away the open feel and some of the views of living on the ravine.
As with most projects the design focus was split between solving the logistics of the site while also making it attractive to look at and provide the usable functional spaces the clients desired.