San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beautiful Barriers: Beyond Concrete and Razor Wire

UNLESS you’re talking about kids ordogs, walls and fences are mostly for keepingthings out – people and eyes, for themost part. Costa Rican fences and gates arethe essence of the concept – they look likethe outer rim of Alcatraz, topped with ironspikes and one or sometimes two coils ofrazor wire, sometimes with a sign thatwarns it’s electric.Fortunately, years of devising increasinglyhorrible ways to shut people out havealso produced some elegant fences andwalls that have transcended the utilitarianapproach to security. Some, such as theRodríguez family’s wrought-iron creations,would be sought after even inSwitzerland, or Iowa, or wherever there ispeace, and cars are left unlocked, and frontdoors are not always closed all the way.TALLER de Forja Rodríguez (443-2746), in San Antonio de Belén, northwestof San José, heats, beats and forgesiron and iron alloys in the time-honoredtradition of smithies since the end of theStone Age. The modern tweaks are just afew – they use gas instead of charcoal, forexample, but the work is original andmachine-free.“This is a technique that is not usedmuch around the world,” company ownerRandall Rodríguez said. “The beautifulthing about iron is that we have to keepworking it the same way it was worked inancient times. It’s rudimentary, gritty workthat has to be done this way.”Rodríguez is the latest in a line ofRodríguez men who work in the forge.The family has done it “for generations.As far back as I can remember, I’ve been inthe workshop… (like) my great grandfather,my grandfather, my father… And Ihope my children do it as well,” he said.MOST of his work is custom-made,designed on paper with his clients untilthey are satisfied with the design.“Whatever the customer wants canalways be made. Sometimes they ask forartistic works with natural shapes orplants. Lots of people like roses… or ifthey want something folksy, we do somethingfolksy, or something from the rainforest – we do macaws and parrots,designs in copper, bronze, aluminum andstainless steel.”Mixed-metal designs do not have to bepainted, he said; the ruddy color the irontakes on as it rusts blends well with bronzeand copper.Rodríguez is not limited to gates andfences; he also makes wrought-iron securityproducts and decorations from windowbars to lamps. Some are made and ready totake home; some are made to order. Anelaborate iron gate could take two to threemonths to finish, he said. Contact him toarrange a visit to his shop and to see examplesof his work.TAPIAS Rústicas (444-6144, in Alajuela, northwestof San José, developed a prefabricatedconcrete fence that keeps out burglars andprying eyes with its rainbow curved panels.Easy to install and attractive, these outdoorwalls are earthquake-resistant, supportedby reinforced concrete columnssunk a meter into the ground spacedbetween the arching panels. They can bepainted and the panels can be arranged tocreate mountainous or cloud-like effects.Photos may be viewed on the company’sWeb site.BARE, gray, boring or imposing concretewalls, in or outside the house, have acure: stucco. Francolor (282-1684, 282-3496), in Santa Ana, southwest of SanJosé, provides materials and instructionsfor a do-it-yourself “final touch of eleganceand originality,” the company said ina statement. It is real, all-natural stucco, amixture of lime, cement, Swiss additivesand resins or French ocher. The companyemphasizes service, helps clients with theirprojects and guarantees its products.CONSTRUCTION company Diseñoen Concreto (383-7583, 382-7985) specializesin decorative concrete yard walls andfences. With locations in San José (292-6463) and Alajuela (430-0147), it sellsearthquake-resistant, prefabricated panelsdesigned to look like wood, with steelfoundations and reinforced columns.

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