BUILDING THE MERGE INSTALLATION: Learning from and Respecting One Another Through the Build Process

September 29, 2017 | DesignPhiladelphia


One of the highlight’s of this year’s DesignPhiladelphia Festival is the MERGE installation on Jefferson’s Lubert Plaza at 10th and Locust Street. Last month we wrote about the design process that created the incredible MERGE installation that will be unveiled at the DesignPhiladelphia Kickoff Party next Wednesday, October 4, 2017, on Jefferson's Center City campus. This week we want to share some of the highlights of the build process.

As a brief recap, MERGE is a design-build installation that showcases the design and construction talents and the value of collaboration between students from the Finishing Trades Institute (FTI) and Jefferson University’s Architecture Program (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University). 

This project started back in January 2017, when AGI (Architectural Glass Institute), FTI, and the Jefferson Architecture Program teamed to host the 2017 Architectural Glass Student Design Competition. Third-year architecture students presented design-build proposals for glass pavilions. Over the summer, a special design-build course run through Jefferson teamed six architecture students and six FTI glaziers under the guidance of Jefferson Professor Jeff Kansler and FTI Instructor Steve Metzger. The Jefferson students included competition winner Ryan Mann, Raymond Bracy, Rebecca Caddick, Michael Jose, Jessica Schell, and Morgan Young. FTI participants included Neil Amadio, Jerry Kots, Phil Rothwell, Patrick O’Connor, and Joe Wojtkielewicz. The group refined Mann’s winning design and fabricated it for the exhibition. The “design” portion of the course took place over three weeks in May. The “build” phase took place from August through September.

Here at DesignPhiladelphia, we had the good fortune of spending some time at the world-class Finishing Trades Institute Training Center in Northeast Philadelphia during the fabrication and the building of the MERGE installation.  When we arrived at FTI, we walked into the work area and saw the architecture students and apprentices, along with their instructors and professors welding and finishing the posts and framework for the MERGE installation.

One of the outcomes of the design process is that the architecture students and the apprentices decided on a custom fabricated metal post, instead of a manufacturers post. This decision had consequences-- a sleeker design and slimmer profile that allowed the variated glass posts to shine; but it also added at least 60 hours to the fabrication time for the project. This was a significant learning moment for the MERGE team, but one that seemed to strengthen the team and certainly helped the design students understand the cost and timeline ramifications of their choices.  It also allowed the craftsmen to understand the "why" behind the design choices architects make.  It also was very helpful and appropriate that the design students helped with the fabrication of the posts-- not welding, but cleaning and finishing. 

This weekend the MERGE team will begin the process of installation on Lubart Plaza. Stay tuned next week for pictures of the install process or come admire it in person on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, at the Kickoff Party in Hamilton Hall or anytime during the DesignPhiladelphia festival!  And if you want to hear more about the project and process from the folks involved come to Merge and the Future of Education and the Next Generation Workforce on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, from 5 - 7:30 PM. Panelists - including student participants - will describe the project from design competition through fabrication with a heavy focus on how design-build education can unite future generations of design and construction professionals. Register Here. 

Photo Cred: Stephanie Staub

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