The eight men and women who arrived on Saturday to learn to build retaining walls all arrived with experience building double-faced walls. Each of them had participated in a prerequisite introductory workshop within the past two years, two of them just the day before. Now they would apply the 5 basic principles in a different context; the front face looks out to the landscape, the back face towards the soil. We build one side taking into account aesthetics. We build both sides for structural soundness. We want the wall to last at least 100 years. Well built walls can last much longer!
What a luxury to have three instructors available to teach! Jamie Masefield led the workshop with the support of Pete Ryder and Sam Brakeley. Their interaction felt additive; each provided helpful information and insights. One student commented, “I thought having three instructors was incredible! Each has a variety of experiences and change in perspectives.”
Participants found that building retaining walls reinforced their previous training. They enjoyed the creative challenge, using visual problem-solving to resolve physically puzzling situations. They tucked away instructors’ guidance on laying foundations and addressing drainage.
As for the social-distance walls, people enjoyed working independently on their own walls, arriving at their own understandings and gauging their own skills. One commented, “Working alone resembled what I’ll experience when I work on my project.”
Almost all of the people in this workshop came to learn what they want to know to implement stonework projects on their own properties. One generously also wants to apply her knowledge to projects in her town. One architect blends personal and professional interest. All expressed great satisfaction with the experience.
What could have gone better? “Cooler weather and no pandemic!”
Graphic: Retaining Wall Design Specifications