Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forging Ideas: What To Leave In, What To Leave Out

With the addition of Cody Dickinson and Meredith Gilligan, the Bluff Heads again met at the Mark Making studio. We were greeted by a 1 to 10 scale model of the Furnace stack that will be used for our future design mock-ups.
Frances McDonald proudly presents the scale model
Then, led by Frances McDonald, we collectively confronted the Redundancy Paradox. After an interesting discussion, a consensus eventually emerged:  the redundancy drawbacks (i.e., limits on content, possible viewer boredom) outweigh the benefits (i.e., emphasizing important information) and hence should be avoided--or at least minimized.

The next task was to create wording for an information panel or sign that would explain what the installation is. Since the finished Furnace design will likely be puzzling to many first-time visitors, this simple element is actually pretty important; it's also a requirement of PAC approval. Starting with "You are looking at...," we each finished the phrase and then we eventually merged our suggestions into the following statement:


The majority of our studio time was spent sketching, cutting, and pasting our "high priority" images and messages onto the wall to start getting a preliminary sense of the scale and balance of this thing we are making. We also worked up a rough historical timeline and a schematic of the smelting process. At this point, the Bluff Furnace design is truly a work in progress...

A macro view of our initial design ideas

Friday, September 17, 2010

Marking Out Some Ideas

This week was devoted primarily to generating content related to the history and significance of Bluff Furnace. We are also inevitably starting to deal with stylistic questions, and it makes for an interesting mix. One example: should there be redundancy in what we present? Up side: the message gets through, as important points are emphasized through repetition. Down side: there’s less information presented anytime something is repeated. We call this the Redundancy Paradox. There’s no easy answer to it…

Part of the discussion occurred at the Mark Making studio, where we presented our preliminary schematics  and received feedback from Frances and Zach. It was decided that our next meeting will be aimed at some “Art 101” basics about how we can interpret the historic photo images of the Furnace on to our “canvas.”

Team BFRP welcomes  the inclusion of Tennessee Archaeology student Meredith Gilligan, who will be volunteering her time to the fabrication of the Bluff Furnace display.  Hooray for Meredith!

Last but not least, Mark Making and UTC Archaeology made a short presentation to the Public Art Committee concerning the Bluff Furnace project. We were encouraged with the reception we received, and Frances McDonald is currently working with the PAC to formalize an agreement for this project .

At the Mark Making Studio

Monday, September 13, 2010

Generating (initial) Ideas

Team BFRP has been busy. After receiving some useful input from the UTC Tennessee Archaeology class (ANTH 3200) about what needs to be interpreted at Bluff Furnace, we worked for several hours on developing themes (content) during a brainstorming session on Sept. 9. That led to a consideration about what level of interpretation we should use (style). We decided to start with fairly simple messages, and lots of images, that would hopefully spark enough visitor interest that some might actually read the interpretive signs that are already present at various places near the site.

In our discussions it became apparent that specific information about viewscapes was needed, so we traveled to Bluff Furnace and took photos and measurements. We are now individually generating schematics of what each one of us thinks the finished product should look like. We have dubbed this first effort “Mark I.”  We plan to share our separate visions with each other next week when we start picking and choosing from our individual models to create a "Mark II" version that hopefully incorporates the best of all our ideas. Other versions will also likely follow. We plan to involve the ANTH 3200 class in assessing how effective our models are in terms of visual and historical stimulation.

Shea and Tanya measure viewscapes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Historical Images

This woodcut from an 1858 Harper's New Monthly magazine, shows a typical charcoal fueled/steam-powered blast furnace. It produced raw iron from iron ore.The iron was then used in local foundries.
This 1860 photograph shows no trace of the earlier charcoal-fueled furnace. Instead, the innovative cupola-style stack that replaced it used coke as its fuel and was unique in the nation at that time. The tall chimney on the right was part of a massive steam engine that powered the hot blast. Approximately twenty furnace workers appear in this photograph. Can you find them?
This 1864 photograph was taken after the Union Army captured Chattanooga and converted the furnace into a lime kiln. Only foundations from the casting shed are left. The bottom of the cupola, supported by arched cast iron legs, appears in the background.
As Chattanooga's first heavy industry, Bluff Furnace contributed to the industrial development of the city in the nineteenth century. This bird's-eye view depicts the city in 1886.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meet the Archaeologists and Mark Making

UTC Archaeologists: (L to R) S. Cochran, T. Dickinson, W. Andrews

Frances McDonald, Chair, Mark Making
Dr. Nick Honerkamp, Director: UTC Institute of Archaeology

Bluff Furnace Restoration Project

Welcome to the "official" blog of the Bluff Furnace Restoration Project (BFRP). The purpose of the BFRP is to put a new face on an old site. A remnant of the city's past, Bluff Furnace was an important and early industry in downtown Chattanooga. The furnace was built by iron master Robert Cravens in 1856 and produced raw iron for use in local foundries. The site was excavated in the 1980's by UTC archaeologists.

Through our research, we were able to reconstruct a life-sized replica of the cupola stack. Using the cupola framework as a "canvas," we intend to produce a visual interpretation of the site's history. The project is a joint venture between Mark Making (a local non-profit organization focused on the production of public art) and UTC archaeology students and faculty. Take a look at our progress as we translate the the history of Bluff Furnace into a contemporary visual icon of Chattanooga's industrial past. See link for a short summary of the site's history.

Link to East Tennessee Iron Company Historical Background