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More into the form than the substance of the work

March 11, 2015


City of Vancouver street crews are replacing sections of water main in the southbound lane of Hemlock Street between 10th and 12th Avenue. Anyway, that’s what I think they’re doing; I didn’t ask.

My only reason for stopping and gawking at the work site was an impromptu art installation — an intricate wooden form representing half the negative shape of the inside of something to be made on site out of poured concrete.

One more question answered that I’ve never asked myself

The negative form looked like a crazy little curl of boat hull; the three-dimensional curves were accomplished using hundreds of long thin slats of wood bent around and nailed to twelve or more half-circle cross-sections.

I have never wondered how such non-angular concrete forms are manufactured and looking at this one I felt not only was there something fundamentally right about it, as in: “of course that’s how they would do it!” but also timeless, as in, “they must have always done it this way”, going back to the first such concrete water mains ever created in Vancouver.

The form, which I was told took city carpenters about a week to build, will be used once and destroyed in the removal process.

Ripping all those slats of wood away from the setting concrete shape is one of the hardest parts of the job, a worker told me with a smile.

I wonder how well it would go to use only 10 slats and the white shrink-wrap plastic I see being used during building envelope repairs.

As for when the work on Hemlock Street will be finished, I have no idea. It honestly never occurred to me to ask. Click the images to enlarge them.


From → Fairview

  1. Sandra permalink

    At the moment that wooden mold strikes me as having a very flat head… with a broad smiling face. Without ears, the poor thing has no knowledge that its existence will be brief.

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