Sunday, July 22, 2012

South Gate

I started thinking of the main door to the Great Room as a "gate" after browsing some gate latches I could use for the handle. The word "gate" also links this element to the entrances of ancient and future Jerusalem as described in Scripture. Not that I've intended the Great Room to be a model of the Heavenly City. (Not that that means it isn't.) But it is intended to express and inspire holiness. Here is the door in the back of my truck after I picked it up from the shop:

On this trip I prayed for the first time ever, I'm sure, that I would not be rear-ended.

I always intended this door to be a "rail and stile" type, with three panels. "Stile" refers to the vertical member on each side of the door; "rail" refers to the horizontal members. In this case, the way I proportioned the stiles and rails left three perfectly square panels. Here's the door in one of my original elevation drawings for the house:

Something got left out of the built door, no? I'm showing a rather intricate geometric pattern for each panel. This pattern would not necessarily be exactly as shown, but similar. The basic geometry is the same as what I've been working with for the rose window planned for the east wall of the Great Room. The idea was that this door would foreshadow the geometry found inside emblazoned by the sunrise.

I imagined that these patterns would be made by cutting out slivers of wood to match each shape, then gluing them to a solid panel and installing it in the door. But my door builder said this kind of "inlay" work was beyond his ability; and even if it wasn't, it would be beyond my budget. So we agreed he would just put some kind of wood panel in for now, and I could have the pattern made (or make it myself) later on. We worried about this panel, though. What would it be? Plywood? That would fall apart pretty quick in the weather. And solid wood would have to be laminated together, which would take extra time and money.

At some point he called me and said, "What do you think about using stainless steel for those panels?" I didn't like it at first, but over the next few days as I thought it over, I warmed to the idea. I got a local sheet metal shop to cut three squares of 1/8-inch thick stainless steel sheet, dropped them off to my door builder, and he put them in. So there - who says I have trouble using someone else's ideas? Here's the finished door on the house:

I like that the steel is reflective, but opaque - in contrast to the reflective and transparent windows. I still like the geometric inlay pattern best for these panels (okay, so maybe I do have trouble using other people's ideas.. ), and I could add that over the steel. Maybe that will be yet another project I'll have after this house is "finished." But the stainless is a mighty fine place-holder. And who knows, maybe I'll warm to the idea of leaving it permanently.

The wood for the stiles and rails is "sapele" - a dark African hardwood similar to mahogany in look and performance, but cheaper. I considered using cypress first, which is what I used for most other exterior wood on the house, including the door trim here. But someone (maybe the door builder) suggested considering sapele. I had never heard of it, but when saw that it was a dark wood, I started liking the idea that this door could be unique among all other wood construction on the house. It is a unique element, after all - not just the main door to the house, but the main door to the most important space in the house. So whatever way this door distinguishes itself is justified. Besides, any true Christian building has to have something from Africa, right?

Here are some views of the door opened:

The south gate has a heft commensurate with its purpose - somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds, guessed its builder. I concurred, after my roommate and I carried it from the shop to my truck. The door installer said it was closer to 150, which would mean it weighs about the same as me - how cool if it was exactly the same?

Not sure what that would mean, but one thing it means is: big hinges.

They are stainless steel, matching the panels. I was surprised to find these in stock at Lowes. And of course I had them face-mounted. Y'all should know by now I don't hide anything in this house.

The sapele actually isn't the only dark wood here. There are 1/2-inch thick strips of ipe next to each column and beam. I like that there's a visual parallel between the front door and the deepest parts of the house's construction.

Now back to the latch - which hasn't been installed yet, or even chosen. As I looked at image after image of entry door hardware, a question came to mind that was both scary and exciting: "Does this door need to lock?" It was mostly scary at first, and I tried to get rid of it. But slowly I started to think that maybe this was the most beautiful thought I've had this year, and that maybe it wasn't really mine. It reminded me of that old idea that the doors of the church are always open - to anyone, at any time. It also brought to mind a prophecy concerning the future Jerusalem: "Your gates will always be open" (Isaiah 60:11, Revelation 21:25).

The scariness of the idea dissipated a bit when I realized that the door leading from the Great Room to the rest of the house could be locked instead. That would mean every room in the house (kitchen, bedrooms, baths) would be secure except the Great Room. The Holy Place would be ever open; the domestic space would be locked. Also consoling was the realization that if this ever became a problem, or if I ever changed my mind, a dead bolt or other lock could easily be added.

I'm still ruminating about this. But the latch I'm leaning towards is called a "Bermuda gate latch." It's solid white bronze, and doesn't come with a lock.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful door, and just don't give your address to known felons and you should be okay! :)