Why Landscape Architects Love Mass Stone Retaining Walls


Creating a strong and visually appealing landscape involves a careful balance of functional and aesthetic elements. Among the various features that contribute to a well-designed landscape, the mass stone retaining wall stands out as a versatile and beneficial choice. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the multitude of advantages associated with mass stone retaining walls in landscape architectural design, covering aspects ranging from structural stability to aesthetic appeal.

To me, landscape architecture is a blend of art and science, aiming to create outdoor spaces that are not only visually pleasing but also functional and sustainable. Mass stone retaining walls have become a popular choice in landscape design due to their unique combination of strength, durability, and aesthetic versatility. In this blog post, we will delve into the myriad benefits of incorporating mass stone retaining walls into landscape architectural projects. In ArchiEng, we work with multiple landscape architects to ensure their proposed design are in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards and NCC.

Rock Retaining Wall Landscape Architectural Reg 126 Archieng

What Is a Retaining Wall?

A retaining wall is a wall that holds a mass of earth in place. It keeps soil at a certain slope that it couldn't adhere to naturally. If a slope would naturally continue through a desired pathway, for example, a retaining wall could stop the slope at a certain point so a pathway could pass through the area.

What Is a Mass Stone Retaining Wall?

Stone retaining walls are a very common and functional landscape feature for your home.  Retaining walls are designed to hold the earth back so that you can create different grades, levels, and shape your landscape as you wish. There are a variety of different methods of stone wall construction including drystack stone retaining walls, mortared stone retaining walls, modular block retaining walls, block + veneer retaining walls, and more. No matter what method of retaining wall construction, the basis is the same.  A stone retaining wall utilizes mass and proper drainage to hold the earth back, and let water through.  A good retaining wall has a solid foundation that goes below grade, adequate mass, well drained backing, and through stones that tie into the earth behind it.  Certain considerations have to made depending on the height of the wall and existing soils to ensure that your retaining wall will look great and last a lifetime.

The illustration below shows a cross-section of how a mass stone retaining wall is to be designed. The base layer will always have the widest and largest stone, and always inclined towards to direction of the retained soil.

Build a Dry-Stacked Stone Retaining Wall Reg 126

What Are the Benefits of a Retaining Wall in Landscaping?

Structural Stability

One of the primary advantages of mass stone retaining walls is their exceptional structural stability. These walls are designed to withstand the lateral pressure exerted by soil and water, making them an ideal choice for retaining and stabilizing uneven terrain. The inherent weight and interlocking nature of the stones contribute to the wall's ability to resist soil movement, preventing erosion and potential land slippage.

Durability and Longevity

Mass stone retaining walls are renowned for their durability and longevity. The use of natural stone, such as granite, limestone, or sandstone, ensures that the walls can withstand the elements and environmental conditions for many years. Unlike some other materials that may degrade over time, stone retains its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal, requiring minimal maintenance.

Prevents Erosion and Provides Support

When it rains, soil will erode and will over time move on a slope. A retaining wall keeps that soil where you want it. Also, a retaining wall will result in shallower slopes, which means water won't move as quickly, which means less flooding and erosion. By installing drainage and water control features like pipes, you can further make a retaining wall an effective antidote to erosion and flooding. It also lowers your maintenance costs.

Aesthetic Versatility

The aesthetic appeal of mass stone retaining walls is a significant factor in their popularity within landscape design. Stone offers a timeless and natural look that can complement various architectural styles and blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment. The variety of stone types, colors, and textures allows for endless design possibilities, making it easy to create a wall that enhances the overall aesthetic of the landscape.

Mass Stone Retaining Wall

Natural Integration

One of the standout features of mass stone retaining walls is their ability to seamlessly integrate with the natural surroundings. These walls can be designed to follow the contours of the land, providing a harmonious transition between different elevations. The use of natural materials fosters a connection with the environment, promoting a sense of unity and cohesion within the landscape.

Environmental Sustainability

In an era where sustainability is a key consideration in design, mass stone retaining walls offer eco-friendly benefits. Natural stones are sourced from the earth and are often considered a more sustainable option compared to certain man-made materials. Additionally, the longevity of stone walls reduces the need for frequent replacements, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious landscape design.

Versatility in Design

The versatility of mass stone retaining walls extends beyond their aesthetic appeal. These walls can be employed in various design configurations, including curved walls, terraced walls, and tiered walls. This flexibility allows landscape architects to create dynamic and visually interesting spaces that cater to the unique characteristics of the site.

Retaining Walls Mass Stone ArchiEng

Water Management

Proper water management is crucial in landscape design, and mass stone retaining walls excel in this regard. The natural permeability of stone allows for effective water drainage, preventing the buildup of hydrostatic pressure behind the wall. This, in turn, helps in avoiding issues such as soil erosion, waterlogging, and potential damage to the wall structure.

Ease of Maintenance

While many landscaping features require regular maintenance, mass stone retaining walls are relatively low-maintenance structures. The durability of the stone ensures that the wall can withstand weathering, and any necessary maintenance is often limited to cleaning and inspecting for any signs of wear. This ease of maintenance makes stone retaining walls a practical and cost-effective choice for long-term landscape solutions.

Stone Retaining Wall AS4678 Reg 126 ArchiEng

Increased Property Value

The addition of a well-designed mass stone retaining wall can significantly enhance the overall value of a property. Potential homebuyers and investors often recognize the aesthetic and functional benefits of these walls, considering them as desirable features that contribute to the overall appeal and usability of the outdoor space.

Improved Land Utilization

Mass stone retaining walls play a crucial role in optimizing land utilization in sloped or uneven terrain. By creating level terraces or tiered spaces, these walls provide usable areas for gardens, seating, or recreational activities. This not only maximizes the functionality of the landscape but also opens up new possibilities for creative design concepts.

Natural Heat Regulation

The thermal properties of stone contribute to natural heat regulation within the landscape. Stone has the ability to absorb heat during the day and release it slowly at night, creating a more stable and comfortable microclimate. This can be particularly advantageous in outdoor spaces where temperature fluctuations need to be moderated for the well-being of plants and users alike.

Quarried Basalt (Blue Metal) Rock Walls ArchiEng Reg 126

Local Sourcing and Cultural Significance

Using locally sourced stone for retaining walls adds a cultural and regional significance to the landscape design. Local stones often reflect the geological characteristics of the area and can contribute to a sense of place. Incorporating materials with local relevance fosters a connection between the landscape and the community it serves.


In conclusion, the benefits of incorporating mass stone retaining walls into landscape architectural design are wide-ranging and impactful. From their structural stability and durability to their aesthetic versatility and environmental sustainability, these walls have earned their place as a staple in modern landscape design. Landscape architects, homeowners, and property developers alike can leverage the unique qualities of mass stone retaining walls to create outdoor spaces that are not only visually stunning but also functional, enduring, and harmonious with the natural environment.

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