Safehouse Temple Door

A public art commission for Mel Chin Aug 2020-June 2021

My Role

I served as the lead Engineer, fabricator and project manager for Mel Chin and S.O.U.R.C.E Studio’s Safehouse Temple Door. I led the installation at the Sweetwater Foundation’s Civic Arts Church in Chicago Ill. in June 2021. Working with Mel and S.O.U.R.C.E was inspirational as always and resulted in a lot of learning and new ways of thinking about collaborative challenges and problem solving. Connecting with the folks at the Sweetwater Foundation (SWF) and learning about the work they are doing in regenerative design was deeply inspirational and reminded me that there is important, world changing work that can be done in small local communities. This gives me hope for a future of sustainable, community driven infrastructure and localized economies. 

The Object 

The door is a functioning vault door 10ft in diameter and weighing nearly 1500 lbs. It has a barn door functionality rolling on  ½” steel track. It has a kinetic locking mechanism that was designed by students in the Maymester iteration of the Creative Fabrication class that I co-taught with my mentor, Susan Rieser. It was fabricated primarily from 16ga sheet steel and rectangular tubing. 

The Purpose

The door serves multiple purposes. It was a gift to the Sweetwater Foundation from Mel and S.O.U.R.C.E Studio. It serves as an activation point for the Fundred project to address the issue of lead poisoning. It also marks the building as a safe space for the community and indicates the value of the people and events happening inside. 

The Process

The door was engineered and fabricated at UNC Asheville’s STEAM studio. My colleague Susan Reiser and I taught a summer term iteration of her Creative Fabrication course that served as the necessary dialog between the artist and the community in which the door was installed. Students in the class designed the user interface and lock mechanism for the door. Weekly design reviews were conducted with Mel and Emmanual to ensure the designs fit the needs of both stakeholders.