By the time you read this, you will most likely have an increased interest in the topic of “gabions” and already know the basics – maybe even more. But did you also know that the actually angular gabions can also be turned into round art objects or used to resurrect an ancient and actually irretrievably destroyed castle? We have ten (not quite everyday) gabion facts for you, which you are guaranteed not to have seen in the new decade!
1.) Let’s start from the beginning. By now everyone knows the present form of the gabion. A wire mesh basket with a certain wire thickness and mesh size, which is filled with a filling material – usually a rock. But this was not always the case. Ever since the invention of gunpowder in the Middle Ages, resourceful fighters made use of the so-called “bulwark basket” for their defence: a woven basket made of willow wood, which was then filled with sand or similar bulk material. The first patent for the metal gabion dates back to 1903 – more than 400 years later.
2.) Not only can you spend a wonderful holiday on Helgoland, the North Sea island is also particularly suitable for testing the durability of steel grids, which are later used to make gabion structures. In cooperation with the Material Testing Institute (MPA) Stuttgart, we outsource spot-welded steel grid samples on Helgoland for the Federal Institute for Materials Testing (BAM) project “Corrosion tests in a maritime atmosphere”. The wire mesh samples placed there in 2009 are apparently in very good condition after more than 10 years of outsourcing. No red rust is visible.
3.) Granted: Gabions with their massive appearance give the impression that they are always extremely heavy and only suitable for use on the ground. However, with our “WVK” wall cladding baskets, for example, even unsightly reinforced concrete walls can be transformed into extraordinary facades. The wall cladding basket is suspended in a tested rail system that is directly attached to the reinforced concrete wall. No foundation is required as the load is transferred directly to the outer wall. In this way, existing buildings can also be visually upgraded. The system is extremely easy to install, robust, versatile and offers an upgrading of facades through various filling and facing options. Natural stones in various colours and shapes can be used as filling material.
4.) Even though the gabions in their modern form with steel grids and clever locking possibilities are a relatively recent form of wall construction, old buildings can be reconstructed with them. This was the case with Klessin Castle in Brandenburg on the Polish border, destroyed in the last weeks of the war in 1945. Volunteers of the local Heimatverein (local heritage association) have reconstructed the ground plan of the castle with gabions filled with debris, which now forms the basis of the local memorial for war victims. A creative idea, which with the help of gabions contributes to the memory of this sad time.
5.) Another advantage that does not appear at first glance is the enormous environmental compatibility of the Gabione principle. While a bare concrete wall offers hardly any shelter for flora and fauna, gabions can become a real paradise for insects with a few little tricks. Even in a conventionally filled basket, many creatures find shelter that are not at home in a concrete wall. Wild bees, ladybirds or lacewings pollinate fruit trees or other plants and also feed on aphids and other pests.
6.) It is only too common to mock gabions that are placed in city centres, suburbs and as fencing around gardens. But the buildings made of steel grids and natural stone are not only much more pleasant to the eye than a dreary concrete wall, they are also less often victims of vandalism. The reason is simple, but astounding. While a smooth concrete wall is an ideal playground for a graffiti artist, he cannot even draw a straight line on the uneven facade of a gabion building. This gnaws at the ego and thus spares gabion walls from graffiti.
7.) Would you have thought that gabions are not only suitable for outdoor use? The stone baskets can also be used inside buildings. For example, a customer has fitted the interior facade of his wine cellar with gabion baskets, which contributes enormously to the atmosphere of the room, which now offers the perfect basis for an extensive wine tasting with warm tones and natural materials.
8.) If we are already talking about unusual forms of gabions, let’s stick to the topic and take up another possibility to creatively integrate gabions into the design of a house or garden. Thus, our stone baskets can be used not only for large-scale road construction projects, but also to create decorative elements for the home: a set of table and benches, for example. Or a letterbox. A raised bed. There are (almost) no limits to your imagination.
9.) Anyone who has always wanted to know how many gabions are built each year in Germany should now pay attention. Although the most recent figure still dates from 2017, it is no less impressive: If all gabion structures are converted to a height of one metre, around 1,300 kilometres of gabions were built this year in Germany alone. That is a distance from Kiel to Lake Garda.
10.) We have just mentioned that buildings made of steel grids do not always have the classic cuboid shape. But there is one who takes it to the extreme: in 2009, artist Tim Schnitzer created a perfect sphere of wire mesh mats, into which he filled 542 colourful glass spheres that are illuminated from below. The impressive decorative object measures 1.35 m in diameter, weighs around 740 kg and is a representative eye-catcher for foyers, driveways or gardens.