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  • The iCON system of precast decorative retaining walls consists of concrete panels constructed on a horizontal surface. While lying flat, the panels can be enhanced on both the front and back surfaces with a wide variety of decorative elements such as stones, rocks, recycled glass, and pieces of metal.
  • This iCON retaining wall in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., earned two 2015 awards from the Decorative Concrete Council for vertical application and concrete artistry. The site was bordered by neighbors whose concerns about their views had to be considered. The challenge was met by developing ways to decorate both sides of the wall.
  • The same iCON retaining wall at night, enhanced by backlighting.
  • Privacy fencing is an ideal application for iCON walls because the decorative enhancements on each side of the wall can be individualized.

An innovative new concrete retaining wall system, developed by Concrete Contractors Interstate, Poway, Calif., is not only faster to install than traditional cast-in-place retaining walls, it also offers architects and builders an endless array of decorative possibilities.

The iCON wall system is similar to a tilt-up wall, but is formed on a flat surface and does not need a casting slab. In many cases, the walls are less expensive to build than masonry or cast-in-place retaining walls while retaining the same functional integrity.

“Our wall system has an all-concrete connection, so there is no need for welding plates or bolts. This system also allows for the walls to perform structurally. Most precast walls are a façade and secured to the face of the wall. The majority of our walls are cast on the jobsite, similar to decorative flatwork. This makes them very affordable, as it will save in shipping costs,” says Jo Baumgartner, an owner and creative artist with CCI.

The initial idea for the wall panels came from a desire to create a retaining wall system that was more than merely functional. They also wanted to create a wall that could be decoratively enhanced on both sides so it could be used for applications such as monument signs, privacy fencing, free-standing decorative walls, memorial walls, and other vertical works of art. For example, if a client wants to design a wall in keeping with a desert-oasis motif, but their neighbor wants something more modern, both styles can be accommodated.

“Some of the elements we use to embed into the concrete include recycled slag glass, with some chunks weighing as much as 20 pounds, Dalle de Verres glass (1-inch-thick slabs of glass in various colors), mosaic glass, fossils, shells, various glass aggregates, and even tools in unique designs and patterns. We have also produced various legacy walls using personal memorabilia,” says Baumgartner.

One notable example is a decorative iCON retaining wall on Monte Fuego in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., for which CCI earned two 2015 awards from the Decorative Concrete Council (first place for vertical application and second place for concrete artistry).

CCI can partner with area contractors to design, build, and install the iCON wall system for them, or they can enter into a licensing agreement with contractors who have an interest in installing the walls themselves. For more details, visit the CCI website at You can also view a video showing the entire iCON wall system design and installation process.