October 7, 2023
Below are some of the complex projects that Jeff Girard and Caleb Lawson have collaborated on over the years. Each project presents a unique set of complexities, ranging from intricate design considerations to unique casting requirements to the logistics of handling and transportation. With Caleb’s daring nature and Jeff’s methodical approach to concrete craftsmanship, their combined efforts result in the creation of truly remarkable concrete pieces!
Above, are two stunning hearths and a bench, all meticulously crafted by Caleb for a client’s residence in Banner Elk, North Carolina. Each of these extraordinary pieces stretches an impressive 21 feet in length. Each concrete creation was cast and seamlessly installed as single monolithic structure. While the casting process itself followed conventional techniques, the complexity of these creations lies in the art of safely flipping, transporting, and installing them.
Ensuring the well-being of these pieces throughout their journey from workshop to home was no small feat. Jeff’s guidance on how to evenly distribute weight and provide necessary support during the delicate flipping and transportation phases was crucial. Thanks to this collaborative effort, Caleb completed the installation of these breathtaking surfaces with precision and care.
The conference table below was designed by Jeff Girard and Caleb Lawson as a project for a CCI Alumni event held in 2019. Caleb’s desire was to craft a conference table that pushed design limits and was visually striking.
Together, Jeff and Caleb devised the concept of creating an 11-foot cantilever as a conference table. Jeff’s engineering expertise came to the forefront as he designed the concrete elements as decorative caps to cover the main structure of the table. Hidden beneath this concrete facade lay a steel framework, meticulously engineered by Jeff to provide structural integrity.
Jeff mentions that well designed concrete does not always need to rely solely on concrete itself. Frequently, considering unconventional approaches and integrating diverse materials proves to be the most straightforward method for crafting and installing comprehensive concrete designs.
This couch is another great example of an intricate concrete designs conceived by Jeff and Caleb for fabrication as a class project. It was constructed by the students of the October 2021 5-Day Ultimate Craft Concrete Training hosted in Canton, North Carolina.What makes this piece truly exceptional is its innovative design: it consists of two separate sections, the surfaces of each boasting a remarkable thinness of just 1 inch.
The most formidable challenge in this project lay in the mold design. Given the extended path the liquid cement would need to travel during the pouring process, the space between the outer and inner molds had to strike a delicate balance. It had to be sufficiently thick to allow the fibrous cement to flow smoothly without clogging, yet thin enough for ease of flipping, transport, and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, the precise shaping, construction, and alignment of the inner and outer molds were paramount to ensure a successful casting and their eventual release from the cast concrete structure.
The inner molds for each side of the couch was comprised of three separate components, ingeniously bolted together to facilitate their sequential removal. While the final result of this project makes it appear effortless, it demanded meticulous planning and execution. The couch’s form had to maintain its aesthetic appeal while guaranteeing that the mold design would seamlessly detach from the concrete structure, all while remaining structurally sound enough to withstand the casting process without distortion or rupture.
The conference table below represents the latest collaborative triumph of Jeff and Caleb. This unique table was designed for the Legends of Rock alumni event hosted by CCI last May. It stands as a testament to innovation, and is a cable-stabilized, single-legged, post-tensioned, double-cantilever structure.
While the table’s surface appears simple in form, the complexity of the structural design make it unique. Precision was paramount in calculating and executing the post-tension reinforcement to ensure the table functioned as designed. Jeff and Caleb’s love for taking out of the box ideas and seeing how far they can push the limits of the design led them to not only incorporate eight-foot cantilevers on each end but to engineer the table to withstand an impressive 2,000 pounds at either end.
Balancing high-performance requirements with an elegant and lightweight design posed a unique challenge. The goal was to create a visually pleasing conference table that was easy for students to maneuver during class and that would serve its functional purpose. when speaking of this project, Jeff notes the importance of finding equilibrium in every great design—juggling creative aspirations, functional necessity, and cost-efficiency.