Cor-Ten Cattails - CODAworx

Cor-Ten Cattails

Submitted by Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Client: Private

Location: Berwyn, PA, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $100,000

Project Team


Peter C. Archer, AIA

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd


Chris Olstein

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd


Private Client

Industry Resource

Tom Crane Photography


Made of 328 10ft Cor-Ten steel blades set upright 8 inches apart, the “Cor-Ten Cattails” were designed for an Arts & Crafts inspired home in Berwyn, Pennsylvania as a yard sculpture that also keeps deer out. It weaves throughout the front yard ‘opening and closing’ around trees in a deliberate serpentine layout. Combined with the stanchions’ angular profiles, the winding plan can play tricks on the eyes; from some points it looks solid, and others blade thin, sometimes projecting a wave effect of light passing through. During strong winds it actually becomes kinetic, an allusion to blowing blades of grass.


The sculpture was purposefully designed to integrate with the architecture of the house and natural setting in the surrounding landscape. The design intent performs a duality as a sculpture, and functionally as a fence to keep deer off the property. The goal was to find a way to connect aesthetically to the house and create a natural flow and rhythm with the Cor-Ten steel blades sculpting space across the property. It was equally important to create the sense of a sculpture as an extension of the house and the function as a fence. The material was selected for its color, aging characteristics and longevity. The shapes and proportions were created to compliment the house and vice versa.


In this instance the artist and architect are one in the same. The client (homeowner) came to the architect with the request for a fence to keep deer out. The design idea impressed the client and the architect worked directly with the steel fabricator for the pieces and assembly process, and with the contractor to develop a method to ensure to the exactness required for the installation.

Additional Information

Despite the deceptively simple design, the sculpture took a tremendous about of precision and skill to create. Each stanchion stands 8’ above grade, 2’ below, weighs 90 lbs., and is 5/8” thick. Each trapezoidal stanchion was cut with a plasma cutter from sheets of Cor-Ten steel. Full scale templates were made to help the contractor set each one individually in concrete at its own precise angle. There are no horizontal connections or supports between stanchions. The entry gate has only two horizontal bars to help span the driveway, and each leaf weighs 1200 lbs.