A Craftsmanship Judge's Insights & Observations

by Nicolas Pasanella, Construction Director, Insight Property Group LLC

I consider myself an enthusiastic WBC Craftsmanship awards veteran.  A judge for the past several years, I enjoy the opportunity to review and discuss the nominees.   This year I was on a mission to get on the “finishes” team, and my application to be a judge could not have been more explicit or emphatic in signaling this interest.  Consequently, on judging day, I got into my car to go to the event, certain that I would spend the next 4-6 hours reviewing finishes and innovative design.

When I arrived I saw the  – “Special Construction”  placard on my table.    Knowing that this was a catch all for nominations that didn’t quite fit into other categories, I had a sneaking suspicion that my judging team might spend the day looking at the more technical projects.   Unsurprisingly, our first two visits consisted of reviewing flashing and waterproofing details.   As I read down the list, I saw the next project on our agenda: “scaffolding”, I couldn’t help but feeling that waterproofing might represent the apogee of our day.

As we drove up to the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, I noticed metal scaffolding wrapping the building and promptly assumed that we would be looking at a typical sidewalk protection job.   So, like any other productive employee, I pulled out my phone and starting checking e-mail.   In the haze of responding to an annoying message, we moved into the building and to my utter amazement when I looked up from my tiny phone screen, I saw an enormous series of scaffolds towering five stories and over a block long. 

The repetition of the members was gorgeous and sculptural.  As a super-structure within the envelope it was iconic.  The super structure was completely transparent, providing open sight lines through structural members, through columns, walls, stairs.  You saw through the structure, like you see through a skeleton, understanding how everything worked and held together.   It was a visual essay in building dynamics.

It also allowed multiple vantage points on the same subject, in this case frescoes on the wall.  We saw them from the floor-looking up, then from the mid-point-looking out directly at eye level, then finally from high above looking down.  This sequencing of the multiple perspectives on the same subjects was fantastic and memorable.

At the end, our team nominated this job for the highest WBC Craftsmanship honor, the Star Award.

Not only was it the most amazing scaffolding job that I ever saw, it was the only scaffolding job that ever amazed.   I must admit to being glad that nobody paid attention to my request to be on the “finishes” judging team.   Talk about finding treasures in the most unexpected places and even more importantly being part of a profession that can make treasures out of the mundane.