Saturday, September 14, 2013

Iron Worker at River Point


Over five years ago I went through the incredible six-month training program that led to my certification as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  The program was filled with fascinating speakers, challenging assignments, and awesome folks from all walks of life who helped me to earn my docent’s name tag. 

One of the speakers I remember most vividly was a construction manager who ran through the process of constructing one of the biggest projects that he had overseen, Prudential Two, a project complicated by the narrowness of the site, the seamless connection to the original Prudential building, and the transition from concrete to steel as the 1992 tower reached its distinctive height.

At some point he got sidetracked and began to talk about iron workers, and from his stories it became pretty obvious that iron workers are different from most of us, just as house cats are different from pumas.  For that difference they are paid extremely well.

My friend Cathy, listening to the stories, finally raised her hand and asked a question, “My son graduated from college a while ago and hasn’t found a job.   How does a person go about getting a job as an iron worker?”

The presenter paused for quite a while.  It was pretty clear that he had a lot to say and was struggling with how to say it.  Finally, he said evenly, “Lady, you don’t want your son to be an iron worker.”

I got just one small glimpse of the reason a while ago when I was taking pictures of the work at the River Point site just across from Wolf Point. (For a look at the project, click here.) Look at the photos below, and you will see an iron worker, 30 feet in the air, safety harness securely fastened, standing with the sole of one work boot balanced on the end of a length of #10 rebar, the other foot in thin air, while the hook of a crane dangles just behind him. 

All in a day’s work.  House cat and pumas . . . me and them.

JWB Photo

JWB Photo




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