Thursday, July 11, 2013

Demolition and Mechanical Parts

One of the most fascinating events of the last weeks has been watching the Davis High School demolition. Apparently we are not alone in finding the process interesting; our alley has had quite a few extra photographers parking their cars in front of our garage to take cell phone pictures of the process. Cars driving down the alley go unusually slowly and I notice the drivers seem to be facing sideways instead of watching where they are going.

"Mommy and Daddy" claw machines (as named by my daughter)
Earlier in the week my daughter and I spent about 20 minutes just watching the process. The machines being used for the demolition of the three stories nearest our house are not ones I have seen before. Years ago I watched my old middle school being smashed by a crane with a heavy ball swinging into the walls. That demolition was fun to watch because of how unpleasant middle school in that building had been. The Davis demolition is slower and more precise. I assume the slower pace has been to prevent damage to the parts of the building that are meant to be preserved.

gripping and twisting

At least three tall machines with claw-like ends are being used for the demolition. The machines seem to come in three sizes corresponding to the three different stories of the process. The other day we watched two work in concert, one breaking the ceiling and pushing debris from the top floor, the other breaking the wall and the top floor after debris was pushed away by the other machine.

biting and cutting

The machines reach up and grip a section of wall, roof or floor with their claws, then the claws pinch, grip or twist the material, pulling the building down section by section. They also seem able to pinch to cut pipes and other materials that aren't cleanly broken by the twisting action. Watching the two machines work reminded me of watching lumbering, awkward dinosaurs on TV, but it also reminded me of a hardworking group of ants, especially the carpenter ants in National Geographic Magazine or The Discovery Channel. The pinching claws reminded me of an earwig.

the claw

The machines seem massive, brutal and yet controlled and methodical. I highly recommend that everyone in Yakima stop by to watch the process for a while. I don't have a good sense of how much is left to to be taken down, since they've already removed more than I expected, so get over here soon. Yesterday one of the smaller claw machines was up on a hill of debris like it was playing "king of the mountain" (notice how I am unable to avoid anthropomorphizing the equipment). Today I can't see any more of that old section of the building from my studio window.

waiting claw
I feel like I should be supporting my discussion of cool demolition equipment with someone that relates to the actual work happening inside the studio, so I will suggest that watching the machinery is research for my sabbatical work combining mechanical equipment into my ceramic sculpture. Last summer I started thinking about the mechanical forms as prosthetic supports for the exotic and strange plant forms of my work. At the time I was actually looking at backhoes and other machinery for ideas about the structures and joints of the moving parts.

SRAM Supported Botany

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