Thursday, April 28, 2011


Slab Number One, finished and dried, prior to removing the forms.

A "control joint" sawed into the slab. An engineer friend of mine says there are two kinds of concrete: that which has cracked, and that which will crack. A control joint creates a "path of least resistance" for cracking so it happens in a straight line and just where we want it to.

On the same day the main slab was poured, they also poured the footings for the four columns in the Great Room.


This is after the primary, vertical forms were removed; the boards that formed the notch at the edge are still in place.

Here the notch forms have been removed. The raised square at the corner will support a steel column baseplate exactly that size, and will be surrounded by a course of brick.

The brick pillars start to rise in the Great Room. These will be the supports for a massive sky-window.

These columns are some of the mason's best work so far.

Yeah, I climbed to the top of the stone wall for this shot. How could I not do that?

Preparation for the porch slab, a perfect square that encloses existing trees. This is also about when I realized I had fallen down on my "general contracting" duties...

I remembered that I had talked with the plumber about running the main lines from the house at a 45 degree angle, under the future corner of the porch slab, and out to the road through a gap in the trees. The foundation guys had spent a day getting the porch forms just right, and then had to take down a corner of them so the plumber could dig his ditch and put in the lines. They were not happy, but no real harm done. Lesson learned.

My plumber understands me. He dug this ditch with a 5-foot wide backhoe straight through the woods and missed every major tree.

The brick edge going in. This is the same "Flemish bond" pattern as seen in the walls - long, short, long, short, etc. I located the columns based on that rhythm too. And the studs. And the roof joists. Studs will line up on the centers of the short bricks (16 inches apart), and the wood finish boards outside and inside will be attached to the studs with exposed fasteners. So the same 16 inch rhythm dances around the whole house, from the floor to the walls to the roof, and is visible outside and inside.

My contractor's response to this ambition: "Good luck!" Well, the brick is lining up with the concrete column bases; that's a miracle in and of itself. So far so good.

There is something holy about order, or something orderly about holiness. It relates to perfection, and harmony, and beauty. "The beauty of his holiness" is a phrase I remember from scripture (Ps 29:2), referring to God. Order in the physical world, especially when it is rigorous to the point of seeming miraculous, is an expression of holiness. When the same geometric or mathematic "DNA" governs the development of every part of a building, it has a relationship to nature.

Order is an aspect of architecture missing from most buildings I experience. A stud wall is built, 16 inches on center. Sheetrock is applied to the wall, 4 x 8 sheets. That's a special rhythm already - three 16's is 4 feet. But then the joints are plastered over, smoothed out, and painted to make one uniform surface. Then the room sizes are fairly arbitrary ("15 x 13 or 16 x 14, what can we afford?") and have nothing to do with the 16-inch dance behind the paint. Then all the arbitrary spaces are crammed into a rectangle. Order is erased.

Slab Number Two finished - for the Great Room. This slab will be covered with brick around the outside of the columns, and with slate on the square inside the columns. And of course - the patterns here will directly relate to those found everywhere else.

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