Training News

Masonry Camp 2004

Fostering Creativity and Collaboration at IMI Masonry Camp

October - November 2004

Campers experienced jobsite conditions and problems in the Architecture Tent. IMI Indiana Area Market Development Director Dave Collins, far right, performs the initial rate of absorption (IRA) field test that is used to match brick to the proper mortar mix.

When you put young BAC craftworkers and designers together and set them loose on a design/build challenge, some creative ideas can be expected. At this year’s session of IMI Masonry Camp, the designs were more out-of-the-box than ever, as they drew inspiration from the recent IMI museum exhibit, “Masonry Variations.”

Having to translate plans into reality during construction of a mockup was an eye-opener for designers.

That exhibit, at the National Building Museum, pushed teams of seasoned IMI instructors and architects to find new uses for masonry classics like stone, brick, and terrazzo, plus modern AAC block. The key for achieving that goal was true collaboration.

Each year, the program sets two overriding goals:

• To expose tomorrow’s designers to skilled BAC craftsmanship; and
• To underscore the need for both professions to choose cooperation over conflict.

That message carried over to this year’s Masonry Camp, where designer and apprentice input was the most evident it has been in the program’s 11-year history.

Project designs were clearly inspired by IMI’s “Masonry Variations” museum exhibit.
Apprentices were part of the design process from the start, as teams of apprentices and architects began their design/build challenge in the design studio.

The first goal is achieved through intensive hands-on sessions in brick and block, tile, terrazzo, stone, plaster, and restoration/PCC. The second goal is reached by dividing into mixed teams of BAC apprentices, and architects and other design professionals. This year included several construction managers who brought another valuable perspective. “It was a great opportunity to learn from master craftsmen,” says engineer Derrick E. Maloney of Robinson Green Beretta in Rhode Island.

The teams are assigned a design/build challenge, and urged to reverse roles. At the end of the week, they present their designs and a built element during a critique session that allows team members to discuss the learning process they experienced throughout the week.

Monica Ponce De Leon of Harvard Design School and Office dA in Boston presented a lecture and participated in the design/build critique at the first session of Masonry Camp 2004. Here, BAC Local 7 NY/NJ marble apprentice Felix Santana explains his team’s mockup to her.

“As a craftworker you are able to see the design aspect of building structures,” says Jon Robinson of Local 21 Illinois. “On the flipside, the architects are able to see and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the different masonry trades.” Peter Arbour, a recent graduate of Yale’s school of architecture, agreed. “The project collaboration brought out most of the problems that exist in the field. It’s good to have that experience face to face.”

The nationally acclaimed program also involved some high profile architects who lectured and participated in the end-of-the-week design/build critique; Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang (Chicago), Monica Ponce De Leon of Harvard Design School and Office dA (Boston), and Elva Rubio, Director of Design for Gensler (Chicago).

“It is a life changing experience,” says Local 16 OH apprentice John Cunningham. “I feel honored that I was chosen to be among such talent.”


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