Terracing to Create Useable Outdoor Spaces

Altering the topography minimimally by giving into the existing topography is my preferred method of landscaping.  However, machine made cuts into a hillside may provide substantial terraces and building pads and places for never ending views and can be functional, ecologically viable and evoke modern design.

Hilfiker Retaining Wall and Stepped Vineyard Terraces

Building a retaining wall and then backfilling the space up to an existing hillside is another way to alter a site's topography to create a flat, more useable landscape without altering the existing hillside habitat or in addition to making cuts in the hillside.  If you plan to use the space for gardening avoid compacting the backfill with heavy equipment and use the best soil your money can buy.

There are many types of retaining walls to consider.  Poured in place concrete can created a clean modern look, but make sure to include drainage in the wall or you may end up with a swimming pool or a blow out. 

A concrete wall can also be faced with stone mortared in place preferably by an skillful stone mason.

Stone Faced Concrete Retaining Wall by Kevin Kruger

Concrete, stone and mortar can be used alone to retain soil as in the case of an island planter. 

Benches can be built into walls and columns can be created using stacked stone, mortar and again a skilled stone mason, like Kevin Kruger and his assistant Billy who performed the work below.

Faced Wall to Left and Right of Stacked Stone & Mortar Column

A Hilfiker Gabion Wall is another more industrial method that evokes a more modern and functional design aesthetic.  To make it appear a bit more refined, the stone may be stacked flush against the cage at the front of the wall and then back filled with quarry stones.

Hilfiker Retaining Wall in Contrast to Stone Faced Column

A wall turns into an art piece with elements like the boulder below and horizontal stacking of pancake like stones punctuated by specially selected stones.

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