Project Portfolio: Biltmore Forest Stonework

Boulders and drystone retaining walls blend together seamlessly in This Biltmore Forest stone work project built by Hammerhead Stoneworks.

retaining wall by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks

Click the image above for a larger view.

Biltmore Forest Stonework: Before and After

This pair of images show how this stonework project evolved. The boulders were already in place, but ineffective at slowing erosion on the bank above. Mulch and leaves were constantly washing into the driveway. We decided for aesthetic and cost-savings reasons to leave the largest boulders and build our retaining walls to meet them. Smaller boulders were removed to make way for the retaining walls.

Biltmore Forest stonework project before
Biltmore Forest stonework project completed by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Stonework Project Getting Started

Biltmore Forest stonework project getting started
This image shows the calm before the storm. There’s about 9,000 pounds of stone there, (more than we need, but there are other projects planned we will use the excess for.) This is a drystone wall. Note the black geo-textile drainage fabric laid over the exposed bank. This fabric allows water to pass through, but captures silt and other fine particles that would wash through the wall. Drystone retaining walls are more beautiful and more durable than a mortared wall installed in the same situation. In effect, the whole wall is a drain, allowing rainwater runoff to pass through. Hydrostatic pressure never builds up. Hydrostatic pressure is a powerful force and is responsible for pushing over so many of the older, mortared retaining walls that we see around Asheville.

Biltmore Forest stonework project underway
This image shows us making progress on the lower wall. The string line is level across, though the wall shrinks and grows as the driveway rises and falls.

Stonework Project Details

Biltmore Forest stonework project, retaining wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks

We used a metamorphic stone called gneiss, quarried in Fletcher, North Carolina. It’s a native stone and looks just right used for landscaping walls like this one. All of the stone is laid in its bedded plane, meaning the stones are set laying the same way they were formed. Face bedding (standing up) a stone like this can result in major problems, as water can work its way into the stone and cause layers to delaminate and peel away.

Biltmore Forest stonework project, retaining wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks
In the background you can see a rough old wall, a jumble of stones really, that will someday soon be replaced with a wall like this one.

Biltmore Forest stonework project, retaining wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks

2 thoughts on “Project Portfolio: Biltmore Forest Stonework

  1. You have clearly put alot of tghuhot into this process of denying the label of artist. As usual your eloquent and well reasoned discourse has completely won me over. I particularly like: You can always find something cheaper than what I have on offer. You would be hard-pressed to find anything better.’FTR my own walling icon over in the UK, a guy called Steven Allen is always anxious to stress that he does not consider himself to be an artist’, although he probably has not examined the reasons why as profoundly as you have here.It is maybe in part a question of humility. The word artist can sometimes indicate an egotistical claim of excellence when used in certain contexts and by a certain type if individual.But Marc, at the end of the day, if other people are choosing to refer to you as an artist’, I think it is because of their deep respect of and appreciation for your work, and you could also just choose to graciously accept it at face value as a sincere compliment.

  2. I have always thguoht that the label of artist should be bequeathed by others who critique the work, whether that be contemporaries, or historians. Someone who calls themselves an artist is kind of like a person calling himself a martyr. Perhaps that is true of crafts person as well, but designer has a finite quality to the title.I disagree with your statement that the technique takes a lesser role than the idea- i have seen plenty of art where the idea was vapid, even pointless, but the technique pretty incredible, but your description of craftsman is dead on. The label has all to do with quality and longevity.I think you underestimate the art within your work; yes, you build a set of stairs that go from A to B, but anyone can do that. You build it with a rhythm in the rocks, rhythm of shape, rhythm of pattern. You put it together so it’s not just functional, but has an aesthetic as well. I have never walked your steps, but I imagine there is an art to the spacing, the rise, as well.

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