Medicine Ball Tower

The Commission

The task was to design and build a structure to house five medicine balls for the client’s home gym. It needed to be functional enough to survive daily use yet beautiful enough to be on permanent display in an elegant West Hollywood apartment.

This is the third piece commissioned by the client for the conversion of his dining room into a home gym. The goal was to not give the space over entirely to this new purpose but to keep it flexible and, most importantly, in harmony with the refined aesthetic of the rest of the home.

Functionality

To allow best possible access to retrieving and returning the balls, it seemed to make best sense to have two open sides. The semicircular openings were at first more of a structural consideration than an aesthetical one, a practical way of reinforcing the shelves to support the graduating weight of each ball.

Part of the challenge was to fit all five balls into the tower without exceeding the height of the light switch.

Creating windows that extended the full length of the two back facing sides satisfied two primary objectives: they made the structure appear both lighter and taller, and they made use of the shape and color of the balls to enhance the tower’s visual interest. With all the long, straight lines, rectangles and squares , I felt a pleasant contrast could be achieved by allowing glimpses of the medicine balls’ curves through the openings, their soft shadows and bright colors peeking out into the room. The four lacewood panels furthermore added to the architecture of the piece. I seldom use these more exotic species of wood, though when I do, I do so sparingly, which I feel ultimately draws more attention to their beauty than if the piece had been made out of them exclusively.

五芯塔 (Five Heart Tower)

Sculpting the circular openings. Just before glue up.

After the semicircular supports had been installed, I noticed that, when viewed from above, the openings appeared as hearts. It was this that made me want to spend a little extra time and effort in sculpting the openings, refining the curves and eventually using a finish to bring out the deep reddish color of the woods. Latching onto this theme of hearts led me to think more along the lines of Chinese pieces of furniture. Having lived in China for many years, it seemed an opportunity to share something of my feelings towards their culture and style of woodworking. This is not to say that I attempted to recreate or even emulate a “Chinese” aesthetic, merely that I saw an opportunity to allow certain feelings about my time there to pass from my own heart into the piece.

Construction

The rule remains: no nails and no screws (and as little glue as I can get away with). Working purely with wooden joints forces me to think more creatively. It’s the problem solving aspect that really gets my juices flowing, always has been. Of course, I want to make something that is beautiful, but that is rarely, if ever, a conscious consideration during the design phase. Somehow, I seem to trust that if a piece is well thought out, if the client’s needs are met (or better yet exceeded), then the finished piece cannot help but be pleasing to the eye. Care, that is to say thoughtfulness of design and affection for the materials, usually gives way to beauty. Setting out with the sole intention to make something beautiful rarely achieves that goal, in my opinion. More often than not, it results in a piece that feels overworked and awkward.

Thankfully, the piece went together without too many unforseen challenges and the client was pleased with the results. The balls rolled in and out with ease, giving us both the sense that the tower had aways been there, that somehow it was being returned to the place where it belonged. It was not the first time I’d wondered if the act of creating something wasn’t more about retrieving it rather than purely inventing it.

~ by calebnrogers on January 6, 2021.

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