Friday, August 2, 2013

Hodge Hall: Week 64 -- Limestone edition

Masons have been installing the limestone veneer on the east and south sides of Hodge Hall.

A few of months ago, I was in the elevator with one of the crew members working on the Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center. I asked him what his job was, and he told me he is a mason, and he was working on the CMU -- that's the "concrete masonry unit" or concrete block to us lay people. I asked him how that was going, and he said fine, but he was really ready to get started on the limestone: "That's the fun part."

A well-designed puzzle.
Even though we can't see much of it from my window, "the fun part" has been happening for several weeks now. It might look like the masons are putting together a rather large puzzle, but there's a particular pattern they follow -- every stone has it's own spot in the design.

The stone -- Indiana limestone, of course -- arrives already cut to fit. There are several different shapes and textures and shades of color. Thousands of pieces of stone. Limestone weighs between 160 and 175 pounds per cubic foot. I'm waiting on some figures to do the math on that, but let's just say that is one heavy job.

The pattern appears random, but of course, it's not. Special pieces surrounding the windows and doors have to be factored in, and everything has to fit together with 3/8" mortar joints. That's pretty precise. Things like rain drip and wind pressure on windows also have to be considered to make the veneer structurally sound.

Visitors to IU often say it's one of the most beautiful campuses they've ever seen. Friends of mine said during their initial visit here that everything was so perfect they half expected to find that it wasn't real -- that at any moment they'd happen upon a film crew making a movie on this idyllic set. Part of what makes it so charming and collegiate are the limestone buildings, and it's easy to see that Hodge Hall will be a jewel among them.

The view from my desk: Most of the limestone work is happening on the front elevation,
but the masons have started on the trim at the bottom of the tower. 

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