When he was a 19-year-old aspiring musician, Mike Current decided he needed a better way to make a living, so he went to coal-mining school. After a year of hanging ironwork for the shafts, he knew underground work wasn't for him. "I hated it," says the 55-year-old Current.
However, he kept on and soon moved up to ironwork in coal preparation plants. He traveled the East Coast like a gypsy, with his guitar as his constant companion, living in the back seat of his car. "I would work, get laid off and move to another job," says TSI Architectural Metals Inc.'s half owner and vice president.
Current's youth wasn't easy. But his early travails pale next to his most daring enterprise yet: construction of five pedestrian bridges linking two 11-story office buildings at Washington, D.C.'s $1-billion CityCenterDC development. For the job, he devised an unorthodox scheme born out of a realization that stick-building the 25-ft-long, glass-enclosed spans over the alley was not a viable option for many reasons, including logistics, safety, building deflection and fit issues.
Instead—and against strong resistance—Current decided to site-assemble each 20-ton "jewel box," pick it up 130 ft and lower it into place. The delicate operation had to be done without racking the unit, breaking the glass, hitting the buildings or overloading the new basement structure under the crane's outriggers.
There were some hairy moments, but operations went off without a glitch. After the first pick, Current went home and cried. "It was an emotional day," he says.
"Mike has an unconventional approach to solving design dilemmas, which results in prefabricated assemblies that ensure high quality and quick erection," says Matt Haas, vice president of Clark Construction Group, CityCenterDC's lead general contractor. "He is more than a builder—Mike is a designer—and that makes him an asset during all phases of a project."