Dan Willis, Architect - Rock Ramp: Low-Tech, Low Cost, Gabion-based Accessibility Ramp System
  1. Home
  2. Award 2019
  3. Universal Design
  4. Rock Ramp: Low-Tech, Low Cost, Gabion-based Accessibility Ramp System

Rock Ramp: Low-Tech, Low Cost, Gabion-based Accessibility Ramp System

Dan Willis, Architect

Universal Design  /  Completed
Dan Willis, Architect
Rock Ramp: Low-Tech, Low Cost, Gabion-based Accessibility Ramp System
General and Technical Report

In much of the world, ramps outside of buildings that allow persons with mobility limitations to negotiate topographic grade changes are most often made of reinforced concrete. The railing systems for these concrete ramps are usually expensive manufactured components made of steel or aluminum. Skilled labor is required to construct the formwork for the concrete ramps, to place the reinforcing, and to pour and finish the concrete. Often, trained welders or mechanics are needed to install the railings. This project began as a search for an alternative, more affordable method to create accessibility ramps—a method that would not require skilled labor.

Our intention was to find and share an open source system for constructing ramps that could be used by individual homeowners, municipalities, schools, church congregations, small business owners, or anyone who needed an affordable alternative to the typical contractor-built concrete ramps. This ramp system is also applicable in parts of the world without access to railing components or skilled construction labor. The “do-it-yourself” Rock Ramp system we created utilizes gabions (wire baskets filled with rocks) to both form the edges of the ramp and to stabilize the necessary topographic changes, eliminating the need for elaborate formwork or skilled masons to create retaining walls. While the most expedient way to create the ramp surface is to use poured concrete, our ramp system also allows for the use of alternative “low tech” materials, such as precast pavers or flagstone to create the traffic-bearing ramp surface. Using precast or stone pavers eliminates the need for expertise in pouring and finishing concrete. In addition, the vertical supports for the ramp handrails can be wood posts, or metal angles, channels, or pipes embedded into the rock-filled gabions. Depending on local building codes and available materials, the ramp handrails can be made of metal, wood, bamboo, or even rope.

It is also possible to add soil to the gabion side walls of the ramp, and then to plant vines, flowers, or other types of plant materials on the tops and sides of the gabions. This creates a “green wall” effect, lessoning the visual impact of the steel wire gabion baskets.

A prototype gabion-based ramp section was created on the Penn State University campus by Ryan Lo, and undergraduate architecture student, and Dan Willis, a professor of architecture at Penn State. The gabion baskets for the prototype were donated by Gabion 1 (www.gabion1.com), a manufacturer of gabion baskets based in Hesperia, California, USA.

The Rock Ramp system is intended to be available at no cost to anyone as an open source construction method. The system can currently be found on Professor Willis’s faculty web page (https://stuckeman.psu.edu/faculty/daniel-willis), but we are in the process of creating a dedicated website to better promote and distribute information about the Rock Ramp method. Recognition in The Plan would help us to disseminate this construction method more broadly, so that it can have the greatest positive impact on accessibility world-wide.


 University Park, Pennsylvania
 United States
 0 mq
 Dan Willis
 Ryan Lo and Dan Willis
 Ryan Lo and Dan Willis
 Marcus Shaffer and Steve White
 Penn State Office of Physical Plant, Irwin & Leighton, Commercial Builders
 Ryan Lo and Stephanie Swindell Thomas


Ryan Lo Résumé
Fifth-Year Architecture Student
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
Expected Graduation Date: May 2019
Professional Experience:
Architecture Intern
Stantec, Summer 2018
Aided in several architectural and interiors projects through AutoCAD, Revit, and Adobe.
Projects varied between planning phases to construction phases.
Prepared a project proposal and refined a 3D digital model in Sketchup.
Volunteer Positions:
Production Lead, 2016 - 2017
Developed 3D-printed prosthetic-like devices for children with hand malformations.
Worked with e-Nable to connect with children in need.
Dan Willis Résumé
Professor of Architecture
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
1989 - present
Professional Experience:
As the son of two parents disabled by polio, Dan Willis has always devoted a portion of his practice to developing better ways to make buildings and spaces accessible.



#Finalist #Stati Uniti  #Ciottoli  #Prototipo  #Struttura in pietra  #Dan Willis, Architect  #University Park 

© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054
ITC Avant Garde Gothic® is a trademark of Monotype ITC Inc. registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and which may be registered in certain other jurisdictions.