Week 101 (Laying the Bent Steel Beam)

In construction photos by Michael Tiemann

One fact of our construction process is this: everything is important.  The blocks on the 7th course depend on those in the 6th, and those in the 6th depend on the 5th, etc.  Nevertheless, there are days when something extraordinary happens, something that opens the door to the next major transformation of the project, and this week was special because we had one of those days.  This is the week that we laid the bent steel beam that defines the roof ridge of the Control Room.  Here is that profile from the West Elevation:


This beam has already perplexed a few who have seen it, so let me just explain a few details.

As with all the other roof profiles in this facility, the facets that make up this roof all follow a strict 5:12 roof pitch, and you can easily see the parallelism between the Music Room roof pitch and the right half of the bent steel beam (which is effectively the South facet of the Control Room roof).  The steel bends to a 5:24 pitch because that’s the angle at which the other two roof facets meet each other as they themselves follow the 60° splayed Southeast and Southwest walls of the Control Room.  The very long (almost 7′) overhang to the South of the Control Room is the trick for getting the all-important interior height inside the Control Room, and explains why we have the extra two courses of blocks on the South Wall.  When the rafters are up, in about a week, it will all make sense.

Now, let’s see how we got here, and the many other things that are happening in parallel.

The bent steel beam didn’t arrive until Thursday morning, but plenty was happening starting on Monday morning, with blocks up to the 10th course already grouted on the South side over the weekend:


Here it is from the other side:


By the next day the inner wythe was finished to match:


In the mean time, the framing crew took care of some details before disappearing into a private workshop to begin construction of the Music Room windows.  They started finishing the lower soffit by placing one board everywhere there were lookouts to nail to:


all the way around:


Here’s a detail of the finish work:


And they put top plates on the Control Room walls for the eventual placement of the bent steel beam and other rafters:


But while the masons stayed at the site building up the Annex walls, the carpentry team began building the windows off-site for the Music Room.

This is what the carpenters will be building in one of two lengths, 80″ for the eight North and South windows and 72″ for the eight windows facing East and West:

Music Room Window Section

Music Room Window Section

At approximately 250 lbs per window, that’s 2 tons of glass and wood just for the upper windows!  Anyway, here’s what it looks like to build one.  Here they are checking square:


then wooden stops are placed to keep the glass tight against the neoprene:


the stops are nailed into place:


the window is placed on its side in preparation for getting the 2nd pane of glass.  The glass is so heavy it must be handled in its vertical orientation until it can be properly supported in other dimensions.


Here’s the glass, in 1/2″ and 3/8″ sizes:


and the secret to making a clean, transparent window:


After cleaning, the second pane is installed, and the window awaits its stops on the other side:


One almost down, and several stacks (in the background) to go…


Speaking of stops, here’s a stop tool (i.e., a tool for measuring the proper distance for placing stops):


Here are some of the many pieces of wood that have been cut to become part of the windows.  While the main frame is made from four pieces of nicely varnished marine-grade plywood (which is beautiful by itself), there are another 20 pieces of cypress to maintain acoustic isolation via three neoprene-suspended barriers (one at the 1/2″ glass, one in the middle of the window, and one at the 3/8″ glass).  Here is some of that wood:


and some more:


Now…did you forget that this is just a detour from the Main Event?

The bent steel beam arrived on Thursday, and that meant another visit from the crane:


Kevin prepares to fly his kite:


The landing zone (aka a steel flange) is prepared:


The bent steel is ready to fly:


And it’s up!


Flying high:


And coming in for a landing:


And now in place on the flange:


While the beam is now attached to its flange, it still needs to be anchored to the back of the building.  The plan for attachment is to weld a plate to the steel and then anchor the plate down into the concrete wythes.  The coupling plate is measured and then sent off to be fire-cut.  Here’s the oxyacetylene torch getting lit:


And the fire-cutting begins:


And it goes pretty fast!  Here’s the moment before the top part is fully cut off:


Then its ground smooth for welding:


Now the beam and the plate will be aligned for arc-welding.  Here the steel guy is asking for the crane to go up a touch:


Then down a touch:


And then we’re ready to weld.  Cover your eyes!


And keep them covered!


Finally, it is done:


And another view, from a few steps back:


In the mean time the masons have another two courses up on the Annex, converging toward the window void:


Suddenly, a truck shows up carrying the rafters, joists, and other materials for framing the Control Room roof:


Wait!  Where’s the plywood?  Oh, there it is:


That’s probably enough for now…next week should also be very exciting!