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Rusty steel!

What’s that got to do with landscape?

Orange/red/blue super rusty metal structures look fantastic in the open air. That rough, textural finish means that the object mass reads brilliantly in a landscape setting and the complimentary colours of the rust provide the perfect foil to verdant green.

Weathering steel or Cor-Ten – the trade name of steel with a superior corrosion resistance which develops a protective oxide film of rust on the metal’s surface was originally developed in the 1930s by the United States Steel Company and widely used for shipping containers. The steel’s primary value was in saving painting costs, especially where extreme environmental and atmospheric conditions prevailed. Today the steel is licenced and produced by steel fabricators around the world and comes in a variety of sheet and coil sizes and grades up to 50mm thick.

Once established the rust surface is stable, it can be scratched off, but does not readily brush off on other surfaces. Scratched surfaces will gradually regain their rusty patina which makes the metal vandal-proof and robust in public areas. The action of rainwater will however wash off rust particles which can cause staining on any adjoining paved surfaces.  A surround of gravel helps to reduce the impact of staining from the runoff, whereas a clean, paved surface will soon suffer from rust marks unless the material is treated with a protective spray.

We have designed Cor-Ten steel rolled strips running through grooves in paving, a track which echoes the route of tramlines in Portsmouth city centre and as tough pieces of street furniture, benches and bins which need little maintenance and seem part of a naval city’s shipping tradition. This scheme is to be match-funded by the adjoining Northern Quarter development. Just recently we have used the steel in a private garden to frame timber storage next to a smart sunken seating area surrounding a Cor-Ten fire bowl. The colour and textures of the steel work perfectly with the natural colours and finishes of the seating area.

Jane Fowles

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Jane Fowles

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