Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Columns of Farnsworth House

..., all the exposed steel connections at the Farnsworth House are plug welds. Plug welding is an elaborate process: steel erectors first drill the columns with holes at the beam connections and fit the columns with erection seats; they then place the perimeter beam on these seats, shim the beam level, and clamp it secure; next, welders plug the vacant column holes, fusing the column to the beam; and finally, finishers remove the erection seats and sand all surfaces smooth. Curiously, these connections require a sequence of operations that demand a high degree of craft, yet each operation disappears with the next. The mechanical craft of the seated connection disappears with the industrial craft of welding, the industrial craft of welding disappears with the handcraft of sanding, and the handcraft of sanding disappears with its own operation. There is no glorification of technology in this curious sequence, just as there is no remnant of craft. To underscore this, the steel fabricators brushed the steel's surface free of burrs and the finishers painted the steel with successive coats of flat white enamel.

by Michael Cadwell
Strange Details

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