Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tap, Track, Eyelet, Weld

Gary Plant Tubular Steel Corporation - photo by M. Marshall
My sculptures will be a permanent integrated part of the reading terrace fence at the ElectraC. Doren library. But how to integrate them?

Beyond the practical aspect, ensuring that the attachment is secure, I had two additional goals: aesthetics and reuse.

Aesthetics: My design is to replace the section of fence railings between posts with my sculptural metal panels. The pieces will be permanently integrated into the fencing supports as part of the fence, not as an attachment or overlay. This is done so that sunlight will puncture through the cutouts giving them shape and background without the added patterns of vertical fence railings confusing the image.

Reuse: I wanted to make the panel attachments something that would not stand in the way of future use. Twenty years from now when the library reading terrace gets remodeled I want the library to have the option to take the sculptures out of the fence and attach them to a window to let light through, to a wall, or to mount in some other free-standing place.

My thoughts were to use attachment methods I had used in the past. I suggested screw taps, slotted tracks, or even eyelets that could act as a locking hook mechanism. All of these could be anticipated in the design and built into the sculpture itself as an integral part of the metal during fabrication.

At the time of the proposal I did not know the actual fencing and post support system that will be used. I planned to work with the architects and the fence fabricators to determine the best way to install the sculptural panels. And I needed to resolve this before the panels were designed because the attachment method might impact the visible area of the panel, or what structural shapes I could do or not do.

After discussing these options with the architects and fence fabricators they had two different and insightful concerns: safety and resistance to tampering.

Safety: To ensure that the attachment mechanism will hold up to extended normal use the fabricator suggested welding the panels into the fence instead of an attachment mechanism that can be undone. This would still meet my aesthetic goals because we can place the railing mountings and secure the welding inside the fence components where it can't be seen. It makes reuse somewhat more difficult. Twenty years from now the library will only have to disassemble the fence and cut it at the welds which won't interfere with the sculpture itself, and they may not even need to do that if the welded components can be part of the new installation.

Resistance: I had thought about making the metal I used unattractive to those who may want to steal it for scrap metal; that's why I thought of steel and now of aluminum. But I didn't think about making the attachment mechanism undesirable to deal with. By welding the sculpture in place it makes it more trouble than it is worth to remove the sculpture. If someone could inspect the fence and see screw taps they might invest the time to try to remove it, but if they see welds they'll know that it will take a lot more work to remove.

So welds it is. Welds meets my goals and the goals of my project partners. 

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