Centerbrook Workshop on Handcraft

Published on January 19th, 2011

Centerbrook Architects has inaugurated a permanent Workshop on Handcraft and Making at its office compound on the Falls River in Centerbrook, Conn. Established for its employees, the workshop will provide hands-on instruction in a variety building arts, including woodworking, masonry, metal work, ceramics, synthetics, castings, finishes, and fabrics. There will be three semesters per year that consist of 12-sessions each. All will be lead jointly by Patrick McCauley, the firm’s Master Model Maker and Industrial Designer, and Bill Rutan, Centerbrook’s Facilities Manager and Master Carpenter.

“It’s not just about drafting a plan to build something, but how you select, cut and shape the materials, how you select and use tools, and how you assemble and join the pieces together to create a desired effect,” McCauley said. “There are dozens of choices to be made when your goal is to go beyond ‘paint-by-the-numbers’ and make something truly special.”

A class of eight employees per semester meets weekly to focus on a different topic such as “From Timber to Tabletop” or “Mold-Making and Casting,” during the 90-minute sessions in the firm’s Model and Work Shops. The curriculum includes guest instructors and field trips to outside vendors, fabricators and artisans.

“These classes provide insight into what is involved in bringing a design from paper fully to life in three dimensions,” said Rutan. “The most successful architectural designs are those that are well grounded in both practical as well as aesthetic considerations.”

At the end of each semester, Workshop graduates will volunteer at a New Haven Habitat for Humanities project, collaborating with the home owner to design and build a facet of the house: for example, a special newel post, distinctive light fixtures, or decorative porch railings.

“Patrick McCauley and Bill Rutan are masters at making exquisitely crafted objects with their hands,” said Jeff Riley, the Centerbrook partner who originated the program. “The Workshop will keep the art of the handmade alive and help us all to make buildings that have an alluring human scale measured in delight as well as feet and inches.”