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.


Best of Both Worlds: Desert by the Beach

When people think of succulents, they often envision the scorching, sandy environment of the desert southwest. This garden, on the other hand, is adjacent to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, famous for its swath of fog and salty air. Though it utilizes almost 100 percent succulents, from agaves and aeoniums to fan aloes and cotyledons, nothing about this design really evokes images of New Mexico or rattlesnakes, to me at least.

Perhaps it’s the addition of warm, dark wood, or the sculptural brush strokes of the cypress trees, which also serve to offer a touch of deep evergreen amidst the cool blues, silvers, and corals of the succulents.

There is also no sense of harshness here – the plants spill out, inviting, from the between the rock edges, and the diversity of form is complementary and inclusive. (and note the urbanite wall and the sleek horizontal fence!)

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.