If one glances around the modern infrastructure of the twentieth century, structures of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century are prevalent, having been used for, amongst other structures, viaducts, arch bridges and retaining walls. In the main these structures were built using unreinforced mass brickwork or natural stone.
Masonry construction today is used primarily for non-load bearing and load bearing walls, usually for aesthetic reasons, the latter being subjected to imposed load conditions whilst the former bearing only its self-weight. Many of yesteryears structures have been exposed to loading conditions and degrees of exposure far in excess of their original intended design conditions, often with limited maintenance, yet today they are still performing more than adequately and form an accepted part of our environment.
This symposium paper (1.5 Mb PDF) briefly considers the history of masonry in civil engineering looking at traditional retaining solutions, and present day construction methods with regard to reinforced and unreinforced masonry earth retaining structures, incorporating such materials as clay, concrete and natural stone.