22 April 2010

It's A Wrap

If a building falls in Irving and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? We’ll never know because Texans paid $25 a carload to watch a stadium crumble from a ton of dynamite. They paid money to suck in a mushroom cloud of ash, dirt and, I assume, asbestos. Big Wow.

In Singapore structures go up and come down on a regular basis. The average lifespan of an apartment building is seven years. Some say it is because the weather makes them unstable. Others believe the constant rise and fall is in an effort to provide jobs. No matter the reason, the demolition is a mind-blowing art form.

First, the construction crew wraps the structure. Christo could probably learn a thing or two from their performance. Scaffolding rises up and then a mesh canvas is stretched over one storey at a time. The covering may not keep the noise down, but it keeps the dust from rising up and settling on the neighborhood homes and in the neighbor’s lungs.

Once wrapped, the heavy equipment arrives. Cranes pluck backhoes from flatbeds and hoist them to the top of the building. When I watched the process, the entire street stood still. Construction workers from a nearby site stopped what they were doing and took turns taking their picture in front of the action. The slightest blow of wind would swing the dangling 2-ton backhoe as it hung over the 20-storey building...and us!

Systematically the levels disappear. Dump trucks haul the concrete, rebar and other building bits from the site. Before the trucks leave the work zone, two guys stand on either side and hose it off. The load is properly tied down and washed. Then one day the building vanishes.

The deconstruction took several months. I snapped the pictures on my phone for fun – a before and after for my personal memory of life in Singapore. However, when Texas Stadium made international news, I knew I had to share the dynamite process of demolition in Singapore. And people get to watch it for free.

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