Building a Japanese Moon Gate - DIY Exploration

Late last week, I posted about the idea of building a 'garden nook' or a secluded area that draws you in as something that is 'on trend' this year and maybe something to consider for our backyard.  In that same post, I made a reference near the bottom of Japanese Moon Gates.   I included the moon gate as a way to potentially create a 'nook' but after looking around the Web, I now realize they're so much more.

From this Old House Online story, you can find out the details of the structure:
A moon gate is a circular opening, usually in a garden wall, which acts as a passageway. In China, where the gates were built in the gardens of wealthy nobles, various parts of the form and its ornamentation carry meaning. More generally, though, a moon gate is thought to offer an auspicious welcome or fortune to those who pass through. English gardeners borrowed the idea from China in the late 19th century. American gardeners immediately followed suit.

A moon gate may be built of stone or brick, or be part of a stuccoed wall. Metal moon gates, usually freestanding, are one variation, dating to Victorian England. The wood arbor with a round arch, its pickets or gate rail beneath finishing the circle, is based on the moon gate.
I also found this step-by-step video that shows how this one in particular was built.  They start with excavating a trench foundation and pouring a concrete slab.  Then stacking the stones up to make the gate.

Makes me think that there might be a different way to build something like this.  Some of you might remember that we had an outdoor fireplace put in the pavillion area of our old house in Elmhurst.  Here's a post that shows a photo of it from back in 2010.  And here's the post from the end of June 2010 that shows how it integrated into the roofline.  That setup was completely stick-built.  Meaning....I had the garage builder pour a small concrete slab that was adjacent to the garage.  I had the paver guys 'build' the paver patio right up to the slab.

Then, on top of that slab, we used treated lumber and 'stick-built' out the box and chimney for the fireplace and slide a metal firebox inside the opening.  Around that framing, we put tile backer board along with a wire mesh that surrounded the entire framing.  This allowed for the stone veneer to be applied and mortared-in.

Could we do something similar with a moon gate?  You can see in the example video above that they used a wood form and stacked the stones up-and-around the form.  That's clearly a way to do this with real stone.  But, could stone veneer be used as a work-around?  It would make it more of a DIY job, right?

Depending on how deep we go with the footings (just footings every five or so feet with a floating slab on top?)  Or, footings with cleats on top and we build it like a deck?  Either way, we'd have to work out the sizing (say...if you wanted to walk "through" this gate, the opening has to be about six feet tall.  That means the circle is six feet wide.  Add ten or so feet of taper on either side of the wall and we're up to about 25 or 26 feet wide.  That's starting to be significant, though.  Perhaps, there's a way to taper the sidewalls down more quickly.  Like this image (below) from Insteading:

Not my photo.  Source via Insteading here.
There are a bunch of images of Moon Gates on that Insteading post that are worth looking at. Some of them show gates as part of walls.  Others as stand-alones.  I rather like the one above that has a keystone in the middle (building it my way with framing and veneer, I'd be using a keystone for looks alone, not structure) and thicker walls that taper down quickly.  If the center circle is seven feet tall, the sidewalls taper down in less length than the center.  Meaning it is something shy of:  7 + 7 (center) + 7 = < 21 feet in length.

Taking that number (say...20 feet) and thinking about our yard, I'd want to maybe turn the gate on an angle so it doesn't take up 20 linear feet side-to-side and presents less of a WALL.

This would be another project on the list of backyard projects including the pizza oven.  I did some location planning a few Summers back in this post.  And have dreamed about what one would look like with the lastest 'dream version' being from the Summer of 2019 here.  Not to mention the 'entrance' work that still has to take place that I have long wanted to include a fountain/waterfall like this.   I've also been thinking about some sort of water feature/creek-like-thing that can go from south-to-north in our backyard that would separate the patio from the yard and follow the natural contours of the yard to run 'downhill' from an elevated point on the south (near where the pizza oven was planned) to the southside where there's a natural low spot.

Too aggressive to include in my 2020 to-do list building?  I think so.  But, that doesn't mean we should include it in the considerations/planning of the rest of the yard?


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