much of our island architecture involves this homely building material.

Cement block. There's a lot of it decorating Hawaii.

“I've never seen so much cement block in my life,” I said, looking at the barren red dirt of a former pineapple field, held in check by several tiered walls of untreated, unpainted, unpretty cinderblock, the setting of our “fixer-upper” house on Maui fourteen years ago.

This was what the wall around our yard looked like. No live grass. Pretty!

Now if you think about it, this propensity for cement block (also called hollow brick sometimes, or breeze brick in the UK) makes a lot of sense. We have a sand quarry on Maui, and make cement here in such amounts we actually send it elsewhere. Hawaii is one of the most expensive states to construct in because EVERYTHING must be flown or shipped in; here was a (relatively) cheap, plentiful building material made locally. It's also nice because it's cool in summer, warm in winter (not that that's a problem) and the area where I live is hilly, and it makes an ideal terracing material.

*yawn* I know I lost you, I almost fell asleep myself. Sorry!

This one has it all- cinderblock wall, mailbox, and lurid paint job. I like the plastic chair under the palm tree-a little bit o' paradise.

Anyway, I've lived in this “local color” neighborhood fourteen years and still haven't got over the sheer balls-out ugliness of it. In the mainland they use a lot of cement block, but they cover it with plaster and call it “Mediterranean” or “Spanish” like this:

Underneath, everything, I mean everything, is just cement block.

So that's the part I haven't got used to. I've tried to pretty it up at my house, and here are some of my strategies:

I'm trying to grow stuff over it. Grow! Grow! Grow!

We painted it with “stone paint” and grew greenery. Lots of greenery. Nalu, above,  looks askance at this project.

More attempts at growing, only the #$@!! yard dude cut my disguise back.

I painted it, and keep a cat in front at all times as a visual distraction. Also more greenery.

But my neighborhood…they have just succumbed. Lock, stock, and block.

A cement block trash can holder. Classy!

Yeah. Why? I don't know. So the cans don't blow over? It's windy here.

Graffiti is not good. Neighbor will no doubt get rid of it soon and maybe even paint!

Note the decorative cement block at the top. I want me some of that!


Typical cement block rental in my neighborhood. Nice and cool inside, no AC needed!

The county park buildings- you guessed it, cement block!

So there you go. We've got a lot of sand here, and we're turning it into our town. I just wish there was some way to pretty it up a little more.

What are the building materials like in your part of the world?

P.S. I just had to give you a couple more mailboxes:

The whale topiary from another angle.

I call this one “Homemade Lava Rock Mountain”- the dogs are unimpressed.

Aren't you wondering by now, what I'm coming up with next? And don't forget to answer about local building materials in your area.


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