Dry-Laid Soapstone Wall, Quarry Gardens Visitor Center
Using only stone from the property, CUH’s Luke Nelson and Devin Floyd erected a soapstone wall south of the Visitor Center at The Quarry Gardens at Schuyler. The project took place over the winter of 2016-2017, and did not come without challenges. Determined to produce a rock wall that would function as an exhibit of the geology of Quarry Gardens, we used the native rocks, peridotite (transition stone) and soapstone. The soapstone is incredibly heavy and made mostly of talc. When wet, it proved to have a life of its own. We would often find a rock slowly sliding on a slip of talc dust and water. An additional challenge of using soapstone is its homogeneity. It’s mineral content is a uniformly bound matrix of magnesium silicate minerals. It does not cleave, and it will throw the sledge hammer right back at you. These challenges, combined with a couple spells of rain and snow, made for an adventure.
The goals of this wall were to create a semi-formal entry, retain up slope soils, and generate an interesting garden space for the plantings to come.We would marry the wall to the place, to the lines and proportions of the Visitor Center, and give it a feel of having been there for eons. It greets all visitors arriving at Quarry Gardens and is carefully planned to introduce them to the astonishing soapstone landscape about to be witnessed. We set a high standard for stability, as we knew children would play on the wall, and families would picnic on it’s flat, broad top. The goal was to harness its slipping tendency to have it settle slightly in upon itself over time, gradually increasing in stability, and eventually becoming one piece. Undoubtedly the most challenging portion in this respect was the free-standing wall at the west end.
With a fantastic native plant community exhibition added in 2017, the wall was softened by a verdant embrace. Visitors can now witness this marvel of a wall in the context of a full season of blooming native flora and the humming activity of bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. Flora grow from the tops and sides of the wall, offering a rare glimpse of some of our region’s more uncommon native species. It is a welcoming that will leave you wanting to return soon and often.