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Fiberglas Furnace

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1950s. 1970s, closed. Mendon Rd.

From the parking lot of the church, assertive shape appears in another context. This tall cubic industrial structure in sheet metal is remarkable for the giant, wrenchlike pincer shape at its top, rising from the Blackstone River declivity. This rooftop industrial sculpture for functional effect recalls the now antiquated sawtooth treatments for top-lighting expansive floors in single-story factories during the early twentieth century, especially prevalent in Rhode Island weave sheds and machine shops built at the time. Here, housing for ventilating fans accounts for the startling shape. Plastic compounds fed from the rectangular silos beside the furnace shed were converted to glass pellets as the raw material for Fiberglas, until the plant was closed after vain attempts to meet environmental emission standards. It now serves as a cavernous shelter for construction equipment, the impressive ventilating shafts (for this use, at least) now as obsolete as sawtooth skylights after the advent of fluorescent lighting. The thin cardboard quality of corrugated sheet metal at this scale is also impressive in the unreal (perhaps surreal) manner in which it appears weightlessly to envelope space, more as a shroud than a wall.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Fiberglas Furnace", [Cumberland, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-CU10.

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