Skeleton becomes structure

2 October 2009, from Housetruck

Finished frame, among the roses

Finished frame

Finished frame

Finished frame

A year ago, the housetruck was quite unreal: simply ideas, drawings, notecards, weblinks, and inspirational images of other similar vehicles. Gradually those sketches became a rough physical model, bits & pieces became systems, complexities were thrown out. The housetruck became defined, shaped through the slippery vectors of 3D renderings. I spent hours zooming around the structure, testing vantage points, sculpting blocky objects, defining specific materials in place of abstract outlines.

As the design shifted from potential to certainty, the details became finer, the decisions more subtle. Finally, there was nothing else to do but declare the design ‘done,’ and place it in the skillful hands of Byron, the steel fabricator. Over just a few weeks, Byron took my specifications and formed it into the steel-tubed structure you’ve been viewing in these pages. Like the design itself, the closer the frame became to being complete, the subtler the details were. I’d left out the exact solution to the problem of how to curve the roof ends across their compound curves; I figured the engineering could come later, when I reached that part of the roof. Instead, Byron invented a way to do it purely in metal, yet still interacting with the wooden subroof that I will attach. Every day or two, he would call me over to take a look at the evolving skeleton. I got used seeing the frame as a whole, instead looking at the facets and the technicalities.

And then, suddenly, it was done. Byron had finished up the last of the tweaks, quickly cleaned and primed the frame, and mounted it on the truck. There it was, sitting in the driveway as if it had just rolled in from the road, in solid space, yet still nearly transparent without its walls and floor and roof and windows. Happily, it seemed not too large – my biggest fear was assuaged. If I squinted, I could pretend to see it as opaque, sided with its cedar boards, its windows winking amiably at curious rubberneckers.

The housetruck now waits idly in its small garage at Byron’s shop. My collection of tools (which will most certainly grow during this project) are at the ready. The initial materials of wool insulation and plywood and beadboard lay stacked and ready.

Now, I come to another phase-shift in the project, the one that I’ve been both looking forward to and dreading: the actual building of the structure. It’s a weird feeling of nervous and certainty. I’ve been daydreaming and planning the exact building process, so the next steps seem clear. Yet it’s a major task, one in which I am sure there will be frustrations and rethinkings.

But tomorrow, regardless, I begin.