Modern Support

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These sturdy black columns were made by pouring concrete into columnar forms. Though these ones are part of a building in Potrero Hill, it’s not hard to imagine them as supports for a modern-styled arbor or trellis in a garden needing some verticality. Or, similarly, in a small grouping as a sculpture; add water flowing up the center and tumbling down the sides for a fountain. Simple and supportive, but with a big statement.

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Just Pebble It

Ugly concrete floors and patios often, unfortunately, go with the territory of a garden. And though it’s usually feasible to break it up and haul it away (or, of course, re-use the urbanite in some creative way on-site), this extra labor isn’t always appealing. So consider this simple, attractive solution by simply by covering it with pebbles and adding a couple of pavers. This is an example from a tiny courtyard, but the same quick-fix could be applied in an outdoor space by adding edging to contain the pebbles.

A Concrete Matter

In the ever-expanding world of re-used materials, “urbanite” is a cool sounding word that refers, simply, to broken up concrete. Pieces of what was once flat, smooth sidewalk can now, once deconstructed, be stacked like bricks to create a vertical wall or foundation. This example of reuse is pretty significant, considering concrete is an incredibly energy intensive product to make.  Plus, I must admit, it’s quite theraputic to smash a sidewalk to pieces with a sledgehammer. Here are a couple examples of urbanite in action:

 

Paired with redwood, this is a sidewall of veggie boxes Elisa built in a backyard in Laurel Heights. This was reused onsite, having been torn up from an old path in the previously neglected space.


These retaining walls are part of the landscaping at a hotel in Boonville, Mendocino County. Notice how the stacked pieces of urbanite are re-enforced with wire mesh, essentially blending in and preventing any wayward slippage.

 

Living Concrete

Concrete typically isn’t the most exciting material to work with. Or at least, the way we express ourselves with it tends to be rather dull: grey, square, and unimaginative. But these concrete stepping stones are eye-catching and enlivened with leaf impressions, which were simply pressed into them while they were still curing. Look at the photo, look away, now look again and mentally erase the leaves. A completely different effect, right? This path dances.

 

On the other side of the country, the offset stone walkway at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. evokes a similar feeling. Just by using different widths and arranging them with a highly varying edge creates something fun and unusual, turning a small spot into art.

Urbanite wall in Lafayette, CA

This is one of the best urbanite walls I’ve seen.  Turning some of the pieces on end so the flat, large side is visible was a nice choice.  Most of the time the pieces are just stacked and it looks fine but this version looks more like a stone wall.




 

“Stone” wall


This is a concrete wall in the SF Botanical Garden made to look like ancient layers of stone by lining the inside of a form with tinfoil and pouring multiple layers of concrete, each with a different texture and color.

Very cool way to add interest to what otherwise could have been a boring garden wall.