The new American Dream: 100K(+ 20) | Starter Home

Dominus Estate Winery by cyu14
September 3, 2008, 4:26 am
Filed under: Material/Building Systems, precedents | Tags: , ,

 Dominus Estate Winery, located in Napa Valley, was the first U.S. project built by the Swiss duo Herzog and de Meuron.  Completed in 2001, the winery is difficult to access -no visitors are allowed. The exclusivity of the winery adds to the mystery of the building itself. Composed of gabions of three different stone sizes, the winery blends easily into the surrounding landscape and sprawling vineyards. In additon to the ready availablity of stone from the nearby American Canyon, the use of gabions was derived from practical criteria -moderating the temperature changes within the valley.

Earth Centre Conference Building by cyu14
September 2, 2008, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Material/Building Systems, precedents | Tags: , ,

Bill Dunster and his firm ZedFactory, were chosen to design the Earth Centre Conference Building in Yorkshire, England, after winning a competition in 1999. The site, formerly used for mining operations, allowed for the building to be inserted into a hillside using the earth as a protective housing. Gabions filled with reused concrete waste are used throughout the building both as primary structure and as interior/exterior cladding.


The Sprouting Building by cyu14
September 2, 2008, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Material/Building Systems, precedents, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The use of gabions as a cladding system can be found in Edouard Francois‘ L’Immeuble qui Pousse, or The Sprouting Building, an apartment complex located in Montpellier, France. The use of gabions as a primary cladding stems from Francois’ intention to explore an economical use of materials and nature, while juxtaposing the typical assumptions on where life will thrive. The large sheer, imposing rock face has been seeded and in time the entire wall will sprout, transforming the exterior of the building into a budding garden wall.


An excerpt from Architectural Review explains the gabion construction process: “Panels were assembled in several stages. The steel cages were set within steel formwork and studded with a double layer of frost-resistant pebbles. A layer of sand followed, then seeds of rock plants contained in grow bags. The ends of the cages are set within a layer of concrete that forms the inner face of the panel. On removing the formwork, the sand was gently shaken out, leaving the soil and seeds. Cast-in lifting hooks enable the panels to be easily lifted into position and fixed onto the structural frame. A watering system between the joints of the panels will nurture the emerging plants. The stone cages have a curiously sensual, primeval quality, like the ancient dry stonewalls in fields. It will be fascinating to witness their slow metamorphosis into a modern hanging garden.” (The Architectural Review, May, 2000. Rock Garden – apartment complex in Montpellier, France.)

Gabions by cyu14

Typically used in retaining walls and for erosion control a gabion is definited by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a basket or cage filled with earth or rocks and used especially in building a support or abutment.”  First used along the Nile thousands of years ago by the Eygptians, the first gabions were constructed with woven reed baskets and stones. These earth ‘cages’  provided protection from flooding and erosion caused by the Nile. Commerically available gabions were introduced in the mid-nineteeth century, and except for advances in welding and cage construction, the gabion retains its rustic appearance and straightforward use. (


Although gabions are traditionally filled with gravel or rocks, the use of recycled construction materials has become a common, cost-effective and sustainable practice.  On average, gabion systems can be as inexpensive as $20/sq. ft.  Additonal information and specifications on modular gabion systems can be found at