Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winged Wall

Future boulders wall on the right

I find that boulders are very hard to integrate into a dry stone wall.
Ones that have been specially chosen for their shape or colour or whatever are the most difficult to build with. When I was asked to incorporate some into a wall running along Peter Mullinsnew property that he'd hand picked and had delivered on site and sent me photos of , I had no idea at first how I could use them in a dry stone installation and not have it look clunky and cheesy. 

A few months ago I began developing a scalloped wall/boulder design based on ideas
I had been thinking about and sent a few drawings to Peter. He lied the  scalloped shape but I felt the design still needed a lot of work. 

I then remembered seeing drawings of a scalloped wall that Shelagh Lippay had sketched and shown me last spring. She is a landscape designer in Bracebridge Ontario with a background in horticulture. I had gone up there to quote on a repair for a retaining wall for a wealthy client of hers near Port Carling. 

The particular dry stone wall design that had caught my attention had boulders in it with what looked like wings arching away from them. The boulders were structural but also could be interpreted as the bird heads

When I arrived in California, Sean Adcock and Patrick McAfee and I began working out the dimensions and determining the design of the wall even more. After we looked at the boulders and the mica quartzite stone material an the site we considered at the idea of not only curving the wall sections on plan but also arching them like wings.

I got in contact with Shelagh through her website GardeningWithART and requested permission to do a version of her 'wall of wings' idea in our Gualala installation. 

Some of the sketches and models of her 'wall of wings'

Unfortunately the area that we were to build on wasn't wide enough for a wall with the staggered flight pattern she had designed, but the basic delineated wing idea was still possible and with her permission we went with it.

Patrick did copious measurements and scale drawings to work out the heights and the curve of the wing sections

We thought to use a huge length of cargo ship rope that Peter had to mark out the curves but it became very unwieldy so we winged it and and used string lines and stakes.

We chose smaller boulders and barred them into place.

The first two courses of each 'wing' were laid in courses between the boulders

Then began the task of laying the upright 'feather stones' between the bird head boulders.
We are using 2 and 3 inch flag stone material from Sidney Peak Quarry. Very slow going.  

photo by Alan Ash

This is how one of the wing sections looks so far.


  1. That looks like tons of fun!

  2. David & CathrynJanuary 28, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    Wow! Great work. That is really impressive, John. We will look forward to seeing the finished result.