Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Artistic Guardrail

Since the inception of the design for the ADU, it was clear that the staircase and catwalk guardrail and handrail would be centrally visible from throughout the ADU. Though I did not want to attempt a creative rail during the construction, I knew that eventually, I did want to make the guardrail into the feature piece of the ADU.

The major section of steel guardrail for the catwalk hangs from a steel beam, on its way to being installed
I worked with Mike Suri from Suri Iron to do this guardrail fabrication and installation. Rather than create a metal rail from scratch, I wanted to reuse old metal and give it new life. I visited a couple local steel yards, and found remnant sections of solid steel from which industrial parts had been cut out (these are sometimes referred to as 'steel skeletons').

The steel yard was littered with a range of skeletons with circular, arced, and rectangular cutouts, but when I stumbled upon this enigmatic beauty, I immediately knew that this one would look magical.

2" thick, this 10' x 10' plate of steel weighed a couple thousand pounds before we cut a couple sections from it.
Working on the rail involved templating the existing staircase, working with the steel yard to cut the steel precisely to match our dimensions, transporting the rails to his workshop (no easy task when the individual pieces weigh up to 675 pounds), sanding the steel, fabricating and welding fastener tabs and fabricating other miscellaneous steel rods that we used to fill out the negative spaces where necessary. The steel cost $0.60/pound and the preparation work took Mike about 40 hours.

Here are some photographs of the process, from finding the steel, fabricating it, installing it, and then some artistic shots. 

The pieces of steel rail weigh, 675, 375, 350, and 120 pounds, respectively. An electric winch was used to hoist the steel sections into place. Setting up the winch correctly was an engineering feat in itself. Mike and his colleague spent hours talking through each step of the installation process before installation day. It showed-the installation went exactly as planned.

The rails look amazing and unique. It's fun to look up and think about where they came from. From every position throughout the house, their wild curvilinear shapes, rusty and imperfect finish, and their solidness, all add to the aesthetic of the ADU. Daylight and evening house lighting show off the artistic railing and reveal a range of curving contrasts against the colorful backdrop of the walls.

A series of images of the artistic handrail in different lighting conditions


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