Iron and Steel

As I have said several times now, if you are mostly concerned about security, then metal is going to be your best choice for fence and gate materials. But you don’t have to settle for ugly, just because it’s iron or steel. Aluminum? Meh. But even that can be OK if you paint it. In fact, unless you are using galvanized or otherwise coated metals, a good base of rust/corrosion preventative covered by several coats of highly weather-resistant paint will offer many years of beautiful duty. This is especially critical if you live in a moist climate, and even more so if you live near an ocean, as the salt air will not be your friend. A great example from Mrjom’s Blog, on his Iron Gates page, shows just how far you can take a gate design and still offer security:

 

An excellent example of meta-art!

There are a great number of possible metal gate designs, limited by imagination, and of course, budget. But the act of creating a fence and gate are part of the long-term infrastructure of a property’s life, and need to last and remain enjoyable for many, many years. Both wood and metal can offer these solutions, but care and upkeep will vary. The quality of materials, the ease of maintenance, and the relevance of the design are all equal factors to the value of the investment.

After all, you don’t want to be coming home one day, and wonder why you ever decided on this particular design. Unless you are a billionaire – which most of us are not – in which case just tear that sucker down and have yourself a do-over. And when you are done there, come on over and do mine, what say?

Here Comes The Neighborhood

Gates and fences, as has been said, and as is quite obvious, started and often remain an element directed at security. The idea of keeping people out, except those the property-owner desires to enter, goes back to the very first fences, walls, and gates. But security comes in many colors, not the least of which is the idea of community. We would be correct to assume that physical security measures pre-date the security imposed by laws and the penalties that attach to their violation. But law, and the resultant cultures that are shaped by laws, have slowly, and in fits and starts, altered community itself, and all it implies and imparts.

 

Criminal acts will, sadly, be with us forever. But the numbers and nature of such acts have in some places diminished with time, and in other places shifted locations of greatest impact. Rural settings have markedly different crime rates as well as crime types. Cities also differ from each other based on a myriad of local factors – climate, local law and law enforcement efforts; cultural pressures; and most of all, community involvement. The more involved the community members are with life in their community, especially outside their own homes, where their physical visibility, and the visibility of their interactions with their neighbors, the less likely their neighborhood will be targeted by criminal elements.

 

It is within such neighborhoods that the nature of fences and gates change from pure physical barriers and access controls, to architectural complements to the home enclosed by them. This sort of change might seem subtle, but only due to how these elements support each others esthetics. Instead of relying on pure physical impermeability as their deterrence value, they rely on the historic mental image of a fence and gate as an unconscious reminder. Such fences and gates tell the passer-by to respect the property limits, while also relying on the pleasure of seeing an esthetically balanced view to engage that same passer-by in a different perspective – one of community, of neighborhood, of friendly people and places. By effecting a change in mind-set, one also reinforces the lowering of criminal intent by replacing it with a sense of belonging. Now, certainly this does not mean a total reduction in criminal behavior – the human species will always have its ner-do-well’s and miscreants. But these more subtle contributors to better security should not be under-valued: they represent a slow but historic shift in the evolution of communities.

 

So the next time you take a walk in the neighborhood, look at the fences and gates around the streets you are walking. Note how each either works esthetically with their house, or does not. Ask what the homeowner might have been thinking about, and how that might say something about how they view and interact with their own neighbors. Then, go home, and look at your own gate and fence. What are YOU communicating? How would you change it? And, why?

 

Fresh lemon-aid, here, come on inside the gate!

Old Gates, New Gates

Old Gates

New Gates

This gate is a part of a fence where every panel is different than the last, and could be equally gate as fence.

While a gate usually implies, and expects, a fence, a gate can as easily stand on it’s own, whereas a fence without a gate is an exercise in futility – the primary purpose is defeated – entry and exit are uncontrolled, and hence, the fence, had for a pence, extracts many pounds. A gate “closes” the fence, provides it’s elemental purposes. A gate without a fence, however, must be more than a gate whose design is all utility – this, too, would be pointless. The Brandenburg Gate, for example, has been many things in its history, both utilitarian and ceremonial. But even in its utilitarian persona, it has never really been much of a fencing element. Today it is closed to vehicular traffic, but it still allows people to pass through its wide embraces.

This gate does not say, “Welcome to my house.” Yet welcome and triumph are its central motifs.

What is it that a gate encloses, repels, restricts, invites? Over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have employed enclosures, gates have served many purposes, but control of entry is its earliest and most critical function. To keep out the wolves, the alien hoards, the Black Knight, the greedy neighbors. Stone enclosures sought to hold predators at bay as much as keeping the livestock where one could keep an eye on them. In some countries, Ireland’s as good an example as any, it is hard to say which need drove the building of stone enclosures more – the need to control the wandering of one’s sheep, or the need to clear the stones from the fields so that the sheep actually had someplace to graze, stones being as plentiful as they are in that green and glorious land.

The Gate is Open

This project depends on you - and your photos of gates. Great gates, different gates, unusual gates, non-obvious gates. Be sure to include your contact information, permission to use your photo, and a name for proper credit where credit is due! Be a part of the Gate Project.