The Living Wall

What is the fastest way to build a wall with no skilled masons or labourers?

As is the case with most solutions at SacredGroves, this was also done by foraging through piles of demolition rubble for materials ideal to build a wall quickly. Volunteers and interns worked together, in between the recent spells of rain, and collected stone, concrete and brick rubble to build a dry masonry wall.



Dry masonry has various advantages over a solid masonry wall with mortar:

  1. It is temporary.
  2. It is built as a thick load bearing wall, making it very stable.
  3. It provides a method of saving stones, concrete rubble, etc. for a different use in the future.
  4. The method of finding and laying the right pieces can be taught to anyone.
  5. It requires no use of cement whatsoever.

Large rubble pieces with atleast two flat sides were chosen to ensure stability. Although a dry masonry wall may not have a standard bond (English, Flemish, etc.), the basic rules of bonding are still applicable. Each course needs to be laid completely before the start of the next to prevent continuous vertical joints from occurring along the same line.


Horizontal bonding is ensured by laying pieces like a jigsaw puzzle – they need to interlock substantially, according to their shapes and sizes. Vertical bonding is ensured merely by the varying thickness and texture of the rubble pieces. Rough surfaces and a few odd shaped pieces in between hold adjacent courses together. This eliminates the need for mortar to hold the wall together. The sheer weight of each piece of rubble also keeps the wall stable: greater downward force prevents light lateral forces (eg. If a person kicks the wall) from damaging the wall.IMG_20141117_152553840

While the wall was being constructed, one of the volunteers here had the idea of turning the dry masonry wall into a living wall. The uppermost course of rubble was laid to create two planting beds. Prior to this, the upper few courses were packed with earth and food compost, to provide nutrition for the plants.  Once the planting beds were filled with earth to the thickness of one course (around 4 to 6 inches), the roots of the plants were laid in holes hug by hand.

IMG_20141117_152744594       IMG_20141117_152646241_HDRThe Living Wall is expected to live up to its name in a few weeks, being watered twice each day: in the morning and the evening. It ultimately serves multiple purposes: defines our two-wheeler parking space, keeps the community from dealing with a thoroughfare of passers-by, provides an appealing place in the open to sit and daydream under the night sky! 😀

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