Radial Steps: A Gneiss Wall

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

This drystone wall connects two columns in a Montford backyard. The redial steps are visible in the distance. Another wall segment will continue from the furthest column and turn at the bank. Most of the stone is a granitic gneiss: heavy, sharp and cantankerous. And it makes a lovely wall. Quarried a few miles outside of Asheville, it looks like it belongs here because it does.

In the photo below, find the green marble tucked in the joinery. In the bottom photo, there’s a pool ball.

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

Radial Steps Column on a Sunny Day

Radial Steps Column

Radial Steps Column
The Montford radial steps are all in place, awaiting some serious clean-up and grouting. The two columns that frame the steps are up to height, awaiting caps. The third column in within inches of completion. I have shifted my focus to the drystone retaining wall between the columns.
Pictured above: looking down one of the radial steps columns next to the steps.

Radial Steps: Image collection

Radial Steps Image Collection

I’m almost done with the radial stone steps I’m building in the Montford district of Asheville. The sixth riser is in place, awaiting the final tread, which I still need to fabricate. The image above is a panorama looking down onto the left hand column and the steps. A wall connects the top radius and the column. You can see the shape of it in this image, but it is not completely built up yet. The columns will be a few inches taller than the wall/steps and will have capstones.

Radial Steps Image Collection
This was the view Monday. I’m using the propane heater to warm up the stones in the area I was planning to work.

Radial Steps Image Collection
This is a shot from behind the steps. From here you can see the overall shape and get a clear picture of the structural nature of the stonework. This is a not a veneer. By my very rough calculations, there will be 12+ tons of material in the steps and columns when I’m done. The backside of the steps is ugly as all get out, but it’s solid as a…

Radial Steps Image Collection
The prettier side of the stone steps.

Radial Steps: Three Up & Architect’s Rendering


Progress continues on the radial stone steps. Mid-week, before the rain really got going, I cut and installed the third tread. Even though the volume diminishes with each step, there’s still a huge amount of fill going into each riser. The columns are 2′ by 2′ and are starting to look like something.


This project was designed by Steven Lee Johnson of Sitework Studios. Steven Lee and Sitework Studios have been great to work with, as they have a clear vision of what the space should be, but give me room to roam with structural and aesthetic choices. They were kind enough to let me use this drawing as well.

This is an early sketch. Some things have changed since it was completed. The wall and columns are structural stone, not a veneer. There will be another step above the landing, and the treads are cut stone, rather than a random pattern. The area below the steps will be paved in brick.