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    Where Practice Makes Perfect

    by Jennifer LeClaire

    Blacksmithing is such a fundamental craft that in French, the familiar proverb, "practice makes perfect," takes the form, "c'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron," or literally in English, "it's by forging that one becomes a blacksmith." — Editor

    North Carolina architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, takes a hands-on approach to understanding the needs of his clients. So when the director of the Penland School of Arts & Crafts asked him to design a blacksmithing studio, the architect took a crash course in ironworking.

    Harmon engaged in a three-day workshop to learn all he could about metalwork to inform his design of a facility that would meet the needs — and the budget — of the school. This attention to client needs is one reason his firm was recently chosen by Residential Architect magazine as 2005 Top Firm of the Year.

    The school in the Appalachian town of Penland, North Carolina needed to accommodate classes of 12 students who would use the building to design, forge, and finish iron objects ranging from delicate iron teaspoons to five-ton (4500-kilogram) sculptures. Harmon was tasked with devising a building — with as much open space as possible and appropriate natural light — that embodied the spirit of craft by clearly revealing its own construction.

    "Iron inspired the design," says Harmon who also serves as an associate professor of architecture at the College of Design at North Carolina State University. "Iron is unique in that it is one of the strongest materials available, yet you can make incredibly delicate and sensitive shapes. We wanted the tradition and beauty of iron to be an integral part of the design."   >>>

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    Blacksmithing studio for the Penland School of Arts & Crafts designed by Frank Harmon, AIA.
    Photo: Timothy Hursley

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    Forges inside the daylit steel structure.
    Photo: Jim West

     

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