Retaining Walls – Gravity, Cantilevered, MSE, Sheet Piles, and Soldier Piles

4.2.1 Introduction to Retaining Walls

How often do you go out into your yard and try to push a boulder across the lawn up to the side of your driveway? Not often I imagine. In fact I doubt if any of you have tried to move boulders by hand. Who does? Sculptors and landscapers, that's who move boulders for a living. While touring a sculptural installation in a park with the artist, my friend Carl Floyd, he told me how he had to teach students to move and position boulders safely on this project. When they started, the students had no idea of how to move a boulder without seriously injuring themselves. By the end of the project, the students were moving and positioning large boulders with ease. The project is called “All People's Park” and it is located near Lake Erie east of Cleveland in Lake County, Ohio.

How did Carl Floyd teach boulder moving? Carl told me that he had to familiarize students with the center of gravity and the balance point of the boulders, and how to use a lever to rock them over and into position. While Carl was telling me about training his students, I imagined early builders and engineers building rock retaining walls around castles and fortifications during war time. Early engineers and builders had a feel for what it took to move a larger boulder. They developed a feel for gravity much like Carl's students. So it is logical that early retaining walls were gravity retaining walls ...

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