Under a Road with Hank Gilpin
Hank Gilpin is a fantastic furniture maker. His designs are elegant and lithe, and his wood selection is always spot on. But Hank does more than design and make furniture. He and I were speaking on the phone recently, and he mentioned something that really piqued my interest. He mentioned that he, along with business partner Ron Byleckie, had designed a tunnel. Yes, a tunnel. It runs under a public road and connects to parts of a golf course.
Think about that. He designed a tunnel. It runs under a road. He took on, and pulled off, a project the scale of which puts it the category of public works, like overpasses and road construction.
Here’s the quick and dirty on how it happened. One day, Hank stood in a pasture with the owner of the golf course. The owner told him that he wanted to get from this pasture to the one on the other side of the road without having to worry about traffic. As he stood there, Hank saw the answer: a tunnel. So he set about designing one. Two years later, the tunnel was completed.
Hank says that he relied on his intuitive sense of proportion and of what would be structurally possible to design the tunnel. The engineer who took the design and specificed how it should be executed changed nothing. That’s impressive, and it’s proof that Hank has a good eye, and a great mind.
All of the landscaping was designed by Hank and Byleckie. And all of the materials, from the rocks used to face the tunnel to the bushes to the trees were taken from the surrouding lands. They didn’t need to go more than about 500 yards to find it all.
Here’s the craziest part. In order to build the tunnel, they first moved the road. Let me say that again. They moved the road. And then moved it back.
To learn more about Hank Gilpin read this article. Using the website’s search engine will turn up more material, like pieces from the Reader’s Gallery.
First Impressions. This was the first piece by Hank Gilpin that I ever saw. I love the arc in the middle, and the negative space between the drawers and the arc.
Concept drawing of tunnel. This is the sketch that Hank showed the client. Two years later it was a reality.
Move that road. Moving the road was easier than building the tunnel under the road. So they moved it. All in a day's work, I guess.
Move it back. With the tunnel structure complete, the road was moved back to its original course.
Looks like it belongs. The use of materials taken from the site helps the tunnel and landscaping seem well-worn and as if they'd always been there.
Sketch brought to life. In the fall, the tunnel looks pretty much exactly like Hank's concept drawing.