The pictures of the details of the construction of these massive pergolas is not just for our records. We will send a complete set of pictures to the contractor who will be charged with assembling the structures once they get to Florida. Though I have described this Branch project yesterday with few pictures and few words, the actual length of time and the attention to detail has been serious and long. At the risk of boring you beyond all belief, these pictures help to better tell the whole story.
finishing the roof
Once both pergolas were finished, cradle structures needed to be built for the roof structures. They are too wide to lay flat. The maximum width of a flatbed truck is 8.5 feet. We are over the legal transport dimension limit. Not a problem. Terry, Michael, Sal, Dave, Enrique, Owen, Scott, Steve, Geri, Dan, Max, and Buck worked together to bring a big idea for the landscape to life. Start to finish. Am I happy with the result? Truly? Yes.
Every project, no matter whether it is big or small, begins with that first step. I had several months of communication via email from a design firm in Florida. Could we build a pair of large scale pergolas for one of their clients? The emails flew back and forth regarding the design and dimensions. 8 weeks ago we had a call. The principal in this design firm would be flying up the following day to see Detroit Garden Works, and our operation at Branch. We were happy to oblige. Our design client was charming and discerning-that part was obvious. As a result of that meeting, Buck had 2 very large garden structures to build. A project of this size started with the first step. The cut steel stacked on a pallet pictured above represents some 960 pieces of flat steel that would form the lattice pattern for both structures.
The pergola roofs would be curved. Gracefully curved. Curving substantial tubes of steel involves a process that is anything but graceful. The proper tools and a measure of brute force more accurately characterizes the work. Any big project that comes along asks for a person in charge who can imagine, and engineer-that would be Buck. I sent this progress picture to our client early on. These 8 pieces of steel would become a pair of roof structures.
So much engineering precedes the actual construction. Buck figured out how to build these large garden structures such that they could be shipped. As few pieces as possible means that the reassembly on site would be straightforward. The frame of this short side panel is actually 3 pieces which would be unbolted for crating and shipping.
The leg and beam panels were finished in a lattice pattern. Three Branch fabricators welded the side panels lattice in tandem-from the ends to the middle. The order of events, and the community action of an associated group of welders, is more critical than you might think. The tremendous heat generated by welding can stymie the most careful design and planning. Happily for this project, Buck had it all in hand.
Prior to the finish of the roof, Buck put one structure together. He needed to be sure that everything fit true, square and tight. The orange apparatus you see on the ceiling in the picture above is a bridge crane. The arm of the crane can move the block and tackle of the crane from one end of the studio to the other. And up and down. This makes it possible to handle the construction of very heavy objects.
The weight of this pergola? Close to 2800 pounds. I did take lots of pictures yesterday, as this may be my only chance to see this all put together. I can imagine that once placed in a landscape, these structures will be stately and beautiful. We are always appreciative when a client sends pictures of the things we make at Branch in the garden, but we don’t always get them. These will go to a private garden.
The first day I walked into the building that would become the Branch Studio, I worried that I had bought place much larger than I would ever need. Yesterday it occurred to me that the size of this building had not only inspired the imagination of our group, it enables us to take on large projects. The ability to produce work on this scale doesn’t come fast or easy. We had to grow up into it. There is an investment to be made in equipment and tools. But more importantly, there are those talented and hard working people who are able to work together as a group towards a common end. There’s lots of listening, and lots of teaching.
Once the pergola was all put together, I saw cellphones come out. There were a lot of pictures taken. A sense of accomplishment and pride was in the air. As for Buck? Once he saw what he had designed, engineered and built go together perfectly, he was one very happy man.
The last roof was finished yesterday. Are all these guys at home relaxing? No. They are at work today for a half day, building the steel cradle/ crates that will hold the pergola roofs during transport. The crates are necessary, as the roofs are too wide to ship flat. It won’t be long now when a 48 foot long flatbed truck will back into the studio, be loaded, and haul these structures to Florida. Well done, Branch Studio.
I am so very pleased that one of our Branch boxes is featured in an article written by Marian McEvoy in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. Even though I have already written about it on the Detroit Garden Works facebook page, there is a story behind the design, development and fabrication of a container for a garden that might be of interest.
First off you need a building-a studio. That studio needs tools both big and little. A few five ton bridge cranes have turned out to be very helpful. But most of all you need people who can turn an idea into an object. I have always wanted to design and fabricate beautiful containers and ornament for the garden. A container that can withstand any climate or season, from the salt air in Florida to the heat in Texas and the cold in Minnesota, is a container that can provide many years of service. Given that lead, that classic material for garden ornament, sculptures and containers has become incredibly costly, steel with a finish that brings the color of lead to mind seemed like a good idea. The Charisse box is not so easy to fabricate. The frame and handles are made of both tubular and solid round lengths of steel. Welding one section to another requires a lot of cutting and precise fitting. Sal, Dan and Buck fabricate for Branch, but these were Buck’s to make.
Each box is assembled from a lot of pieces that need to be cut fairly close to perfect. Mistakes in the length and angles of a piece, times many pieces, can add up to a box that bears no resemblance to square. The only square stock in the frame is a diamond, welded from curved lengths of steel. Buck’s other boxes have a simple and solid design. I was interested in making one box that was a more graceful. Making steel look graceful is not so easy.
It took quite some time just to get the frame together, square and true. Since the original Charisse boxes were made in 2005, changes have been made. Though Buck does multiple CAD drawings for everything he builds, the finished box tells the tale. Certain dimensions have been altered. It takes more time than I ever thought it would to get the size and proportion of a box just where it should be
The scrolled steel handles and diamonds came next. The tops of the tubular steel has small steel shperes welding to them as a finishing touch. Steel straps are welded to the bottom of the frame, to hold the steel box that would slip inside the frame.
The legs have an inverted flower detail. Each leg has several of them welded together, for strength.
The bottom of the leg has a sleeve of thicker and larger steel, for stability. This is a very heavy box, supported by very slender legs.
There are plenty of details, and lots of curves.
snail scroll handles
the Branch Studio tag
The article is a very interesting and well written discussion of containers in the garden, and garden containers that will withstand fall and winter weather. Containers filled with plants in the landscape in all of the seasons sounds appealing. Something in the landscape to look at besides snow on the ground and gray skies is a good plan. That Buck’s Charisse box would be on her list of beautiful and weather-worthy containers -all of us are really thrilled about that.