One of the main projects for the April 2014 Arcosanti Workshop was to landscape the area around the Sunami Shade (a shade sculpture generously donated to Arcosanti by alumnus Geoffrey Bruce, and installed last fall at a site midway up the Visitor’s Trail, see report from 12/2/2013).

[photos by Scott Riley, text by Rawaf al Rawaf]

The goal the project was to design a platform underneath the shade, which would allow room for a future bench or picnic table, fit into the natural landscape, and be elegantly frugal.

Our solution was to replace the rotted railroad ties that were on the site with a retaining wall system known as Gabions, or metal wire-mesh cages packed with medium to large sized rock.

Gabions are a centuries old construction originally used as temporary siege warfare battlements, and today have diversified into erosion control, civil engineering, and even architectural roles.

We spent the first week cutting steel mesh and fabricating the gabion cages off-site in the metal shop behind the lab building. We then spent the second week excavating and leveling the site, placing and filling the gabions (with recycled concrete rubble from the demolition of the East Housing Roof, and rocks quarried from a nearby breached dike – frugality!), and finally back-filling them to finish the Sunami Shade platform.

The project met its goals and was finished on time, on budget, and was the first experiment in gabion construction for the Arcosanti Urban Laboratory. Overall a great success.

Many thanks to the Workshop/Volunteers (Dante, Feu, Lily and Solomon) Construction/Landscaping crews (Isaac, Cayo, Courtney, Liam and Dillon) and Travis Shappell!

-Rawaf al Rawaf [Arcosanti Planning team]

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