A Structure

steel-lattice.jpgEvery 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.

steel-pergola.jpgThe 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.

steel-garden-ornament.jpgSo 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.

lattice-panel.jpgThe 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.

finished-panels.jpgThe side panels for this pair of pergolas have been done for a few weeks. They are beautifully and precisely made.

pergola-roof.jpgThe construction of the roofs came last.  Those curved pieces of steel contructed weeks earlier were welded into place.

steel-garden-structure.jpgPrior 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.

finished-structure.jpgThe 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.

steel-pergola.jpgThe 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.

steel-roof.jpgOnce 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 second-roof.jpg
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.


  1. I am so filled with admiration. Chuck full.

  2. Branch Studio is awesome. I really admire their aesthetic rigor and commitment to excellence. Would be so proud to have one of their creations in my garden. Nicely done- again.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Many thanks, Mario. I’ll have to get Buck to read your letter. I know he will be very pleased to read it. Deborah

  3. Wow! Eye-popping gorgeous.
    And what a privilege to be invited into your studio to see these artists at work.
    I hope the Florida clients will take photos of the pergola in place so we can continue this journey.

  4. Linda Milligan says

    I love the wide range of topics of your blog. This one was so informative. I hope you show pictures of it in place in the garden.’

  5. Never think you give us too much info or that something might not interest us. My father owned a welding/fabricating business and I was his little helper (complete with little coveralls). I looked closely at every photo and am fascinated. Your group should be very proud. Thank-you for the time and effort you take to share with us!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, thanks for your letter. Buck is the real deal, Branch did an incredible job creating these structures. Deborah

  6. Nancy H. Kraft says

    I think Buck must have the blood of the Ancient Egyptians that designed Abu Simbel.

  7. Jean Guest says

    Branch – what an apt name for this unique part of your business.

    If Detroit Garden Works is the mother tree sending out shoots of every kind – herbaceous and floral as well as photographic ‘shoots’ to your devoted readers – then Branch is the architectural and engineering ‘limb’ providing structure and strength to your tree.

    Buck and his magnificent, dedicated team – busy welding, manufacturing and creating sublime pieces that will stand the test of time. Pieces of iconic sculpture that will become focal points for years to come.

    But as you know a tree is only as strong as its roots – and your roots are well established for they are your loyal and experienced team – supporting your DGW tree and your awesome Branch!


    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jean, thanks for your thoughtful letter. The landscape company, the shop, and Branch are staffed by some very dedicated and talented people. I have the greatest respect for all of them. Deborah

  8. Wow-beautiful creation!

  9. G. D. Higgins says

    I would call Buck a gifted artist and craftsman extraordinaire. To imagine, then design, fabricate and assemble such magnificent structures requires a talent well beyond the most accomplished. I am sure his well train team will also excel, manufacturing the containers required for shipment.
    The Branch team deserves high praise for this effort, simply excellent. Way to go Buck!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Don, it was pure serendipity, but Buck’s son happened to be in town yesterday. What a special treat for Buck to be able to share that project with him. Deborah

  10. janet aronoff says

    I am so proud of Buck and happy for him ,his team and all of you.I always knew that Buck was something special and here is the proof of the pudding! GREAT!!!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Janet, we all know you have a spot in your heart for Buck-no one appreciates that more than he does. Thanks for your letter. Deborah

  11. Incredibly impressed! When I heard about this project recently, I knew it was an amazing undertaking. But this really shows what an amount of talent and dedication it truly takes to make it happen. Bravo to the entire team!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Christina, thanks a million for your letter! They are a great team-I am so darn proud of them. Deborah

  12. Deborah,
    Congrats to you and your talented team for the time honored tradition of fine landscape architectural craftsmanship. It is a pleasure to see and know that it is alive and well .
    In appreciation,

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michelle, many thanks for taking the time to write. Great craftsmanship is a worthy goal. Alive and well-how I treasure that state of being. Best, Deborah

  13. All I can say is WOW! Absolutely beautiful. Congrats to Buck and his team.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Lauren, I think Buck and his group were amazed when they finally saw it put together-it’s a building! Thanks, Deborah

  14. This is amazing. I don’t know what is more interesting: the stunning design, the intricate engineering or the amazing dedication of a team of craftspeople. What a wonderful achievement. If I ever win the lottery I know who I’m calling: you, Buck and the dedicated team at Branch!

  15. Julia Hofley says

    Bravo! Really love the elegant lines of these amazing pergolas. Lucky Floridians~

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