This has been a very busy summer season for Branch. To follow, pictures of a few of our early summer projects. How pleased we are to have clients in our area. And clients afar- northern Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, Texas, Connecticut, Florida, New York City, Long Island, California, Virginia, Louisiana, and Oregon. This project in Grosse Pointe Michigan-raised planter boxes to be planted with cutting flowers.
A client who had looked a long time for a fountain fell hard for Buck’s contemporary steel creation. I ws more than a little surprised, considering her more traditional taste in garden ornament. But she was certain that this fountain was the perfect choice for her garden. The job of transporting and setting it in place fell to Steve. As you can see, he was planning the move.
Once he drained the fountain, he wrapped the fountain stem with heavy woven landscape straps. As the fountain weighed in at about 400 pounds, and the site was not particularly friendly to the use of a front end loader, we would have to move the piece by hand. 12 hands, to be exact. Each of three straps had a person at each end. The straps would be a lot simpler to grasp that the smooth side of the bowl. My crew can lift a lot, provided they are able to get a good grasp.
We excavates the soil from the spot where the fountain was to be placed, and filled it with coarse gravel. A square concrete tile was placed over top. This made it much easier to check to be sure the spot was level. It is also much easier to adjust this tile to get it level, as opposed to the fountain. It seemed like the fountain would be a good fit in this circle of boxwood-but we wouldn’t know for sure until we got it there.
The fountains we have manufactured at Branch of late come race ready. The jet inside this fountain is attached to a steel plate, and comes with a valve that regulates the height of the jet. Having a special event? Open up the valve. A tee fitting off the jet pipe is attached to the pump. The cord for the pump comes through a hole in the base of the fountain. The jet and pump assembly sits in the bottom of the fountain, making it easy to level the jet. All the customer needs to supply is a source of electricity.
Getting the fountain through the gate was a challenge. Luckily the gate itself was easy to lift off its hinges. Once the fountain base was resting on the second step up, the fountain would be flipped over on its side. The fountain has 4 eye hooks inside should the fountain ever have to be lifted. It proved handy for tying the jet in place for the move.
There were but a few inches of room to spare, but that proved to be enough. Luckily, any circular or hemispherical shape is not only very stable, but it is very strong. This steel is relatively thin, considering how large an object it is, but there was no worry that the edge would be damaged. At this point, we were rolling the fountain on its edge, rather than carrying it. I roll pots around the shop that I could never lift off the ground.
The last stage of the journey did involve lifting the fountain over a boxwood hedge. My crew made it look like no big deal.
They left me to fill the fountain-my pleasure, and my worry. If the level were the least bit off, the water would tell that tale. Water is always level-it’s people that get things crooked. As I cannot abide a statue or pot that isn’t sitting level, I was willing to wait.
I needn’t have worried. It read perfectly level to my eye. The wide rim of the fountain finishes the shape in a beautiful way, but it also masks any little bit it might be out of level. The fountain was filled with water to just under that rim. My client did very well with this-the fountain looks remarkably good in her garden. She had had an electrical box installed a long time ago, so an hour after our arrival, the fountain was running.
The entire garden made more visual sense given a centerpiece. The peach trees have a much more opulent and exotic look. I am standing on her porch, looking out. The water seems to be at just the right height. After trying the jet at a number of levels, she decided on this. Just enough height to make for a great sound.
My client thinks it looks like I designed this fountain especially for her garden. Since I would have never considered it for her, I realize that giving clients the chance to look without prejudice can result in an interesting outcome.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have a company, the Branch Studio, whose sole mission is to design and fabricate ornament for the garden. It is a small company, but it produces some very beautiful pots, sculpture, pergolas-and fountains. The opportunity for me to design garden ornament, and get it fabricated for specific projects adds a lot to my landscape design projects.
Detroit Garden Works is a retail outlet for those garden objects that get made at Branch. We make pots, sculpture, pergolas, plant tables, arbors-the list is long. Buck, Salvadore, and Dan are responsible for the fabrication we do in steel, wood, and concrete. Buck takes a sketch of mine, and creates an object. A Saarinen scholar in architecture at Cranbrook in the 1970′s, and a previously practicing architect for 30 years means no project of mine daunts him. Bowl shaped steel-really daunting. He took to it without any protest.
He has fabricated a pair of fountains similar to this one for a company in California that owns properties across the US-one went to Fort Worth Texas, the other will ship out to Florida in a few weeks. Those steel bowl shapes enchanted me-could we not design a contemporary fountain that could be delivered, installed, and plugged in?
In March, Buck was well on his way with this fountain. He was sure he needed a new Miller tig welder-ok, Buck. The details of his fabrication -ingenious, as usual. The bowl sits on a pedestal of steel that can sit at grade, if there is a garden planned in concert. That pedestal can be buried below grade, should a client with a contemporary landscape like to see the bowl sitting, appearing to float, just above the grade of a gravel or stone terrace.
Though round steel is entirely stable and strong due to its shape, the steel in this fountain is thick. We placed it at the shop with the help of a loader. Buck wanted to be sure that if a child chose to climb up the side, or an adult decided to sit on the edge, the bowl would not move, or tip.
Four people and a machine were involved in placing it at the shop. The process of setting a fountain level with the horizon is time consuming, and essential. More than any element of nature, water is always perfectly level. A vessel out of level-the water will describe that problem in clear and obvious detail.
I could not have been more pleased about the look of this contemporary steel fountain. It has lots of options for installation. Buck plumbed it, and set a good sized pump in the bottom. A valve controls the rate of the flow of water. The electric cord comes out at ground level from the pedestal.
Arrange for delivery. Install at whatever height seems good, in whatever landscape that asks for a coolly contemporary fountain 60 inches in diameter. Plug it in, or hardwire it. Buck thought through all of the issues. As usual, he did the lion’s share of the work. He makes it really easy to commit. This fountain brings a smile to my face every time I look at it. How so? He builds beautiful things.
The welding studio has been busy the last 3 weeks. Buck had a special order for a fountain, and a matching urn for a client in California, and a destination in Fort Worth Texas. The sheer size of the fountain meant the base and scuppers needed to be very strong, and the steel thick and heavy.
The project under construction has a landscape architect on retainer. He designed both pieces, and we fabricated from his designs. The drawing from the LA needed to be drawn in CAD-this is short for computer assisted design. It is an enormous skill in and of itself to master the CAD program. Buck is an expert, given his 30 year experience as an architect specializing in technical design. That CAD drawing enables him to fabricate an object true to every dimension specified in the design.
The hemispherical fountain bowl is 60 inches in diameter. Creating this shape from a solid piece of steel involves a lot of technology, a surprising amount of finesse, and loads of skill. This bowl is not perfectly hemsipherical, but it is extremely close. Close enough to convince the eye.
Once the bowl had a 2 inch thick lip of steel, interrupted by 4 evenly spaced scuppers, it was ready to be welded to the base. Scuppers? The steel lip keeps the water inside the bowl. The scupper is that place where the steel dam had been breached, allowing water to flow and fall over the edge. Once the steel is galvanized, Buck applies our finish. He finished the inside of the bowl, and the base first. Then the entire fountain, with the aid of a bridge crane, would be flipped up side down for the finishing of the bowl.
The fountain design is very simple, but massive. The finished piece weighs close to 1/2 a ton. It will be placed in a large pool-I am not sure of any of the installation details. It will take some skill to size the pump properly, so the water sheets over the side without runing back under the scupper, and down the side of the bowl. Fountain design, fabrication and installation takes a lot of skill.
The urn, on the forklift in the foreground, is much smaller than the fountain, and will be placed in some other location on the project. This piece will be planted. Both pieces were shipped up side down, for obvious reasons. All of the weight of the steel is at the top.
The fountain does not have a jet. The pump will push water hard enough to keep the water flowing fast over the 4 scuppers and into the pool. The contractor for the project wanted this copper pipe and stop valve installed just as you see here.
Buck did not crate this piece-what crate would be stronger than this steel? Circular shapes are very stable and incredibly strong-even more so when they are made of steel. I have heard I will get pictures of the installation once it is finished and running. I have my fingers crossed about that. Buck tells me the level of the base and the level of the top of the fountain is within a 1/16 of an inch of being dead on. Dead on and level is very important where water is concerned. In a perfect world, water will fall over all 4 sides equally. In an imperfect world, within 1/16 of an inch of perfect will work. Buck and his crew make lots of things that are a part of something bigger. If no pictures are forthcoming, I have some help. Buck has family in Fort Worth. What fun, that they will get to see something he made, available for the looking, just across town.