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By Richard Korman
R. Scott Lewis
Submitter: ACCO Engineered Systems, Glendale, Calif.
Will anyone ever forget the images of the Chinook helicopters target-bombing sandbags into the breached New Orleans canals? Or the sight of $3 a gallon posted above the pump at the gas station? It isn’t likely that anyone could forget because they are the indelible images from 2005. There are others, too, that will take their place in the American picture album for that this year.

We often think and remember pictorially, storing memories and emotions in our mental photofiles. For example, we may think of environmentally sound buildings by remembering the increasingly popular LEED checklist with scores; the revival of coal-fired powerplants via the image of Wisconsin Public Service Corp.’s mighty Weston project; or the passage of the $286-billion federal transportation bill, approved after an unforgivable 22- month delay, tied by habit to the image of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Except for a war that has taken too many lives and a series of natural disasters, 2005 was a relatively good year. Its last-ing picture is one of hard work, creativity and enterprise in the industry.

On the following pages is what we consider the construction industry’s private scrapbook, our annual “The Year in Construction” feature, an amalgam of projects and people skillfully photographed and submitted to the editors of ENR.

Related Links:
Images of the Year in Construction
  • SlideShow
  • Safety in Photography
  • Instead of documenting the big stories of the year, these images often freeze the more private moments and the personal perspectives on construction. Some of their subjects have a sweeping grandeur, a majesty and subliminal power that words never can convey. There is no surprise in this. Designing and building are everyday activities that involve the harnessing of rivers, the imagining of inspired public structures, the taming of gravity, sundering of stone and the transmutation of steel. That such work could produce powerful images on an everyday basis is easy to grasp. What’s harder to reconcile is how the most intense periods of construction—when sparks are spewing from the welder’s torch, or cranes are flying a bridge section over a river—can produce so much beauty before what’s being built is even finished. Not everyone in the industry appreciates such beauty or cares to put it into words, but architects, engineers and contractors all touch the result and through it have a special relationship to soil, water, air, machinery, electricity, concrete, steel and other project components.

    These photos put us back in touch with the inspirational and lyrical side of building things. A building frame, illuminated by dozens of lights, can take on the golden cast of an angel food cake; ironworkers clasping themselves to steel braces can seem as if they are hanging onto rocking horses; concrete pumps, shrouded by a blue fog, can seem like spindly Jurassic monsters feeding in the mist; bundles of post-tensioning cables can metamorphose into a tulip bouquet; and the lazy drape of cable sheathing can resemble the flaccid tentacles of a sea creature.

    This year, we requested photos of people working safely, partly in response to those who are concerned about what they think are apparent safety violations in some ENR photos. Still, photographers continued to submit images showing potential violations. We brought in Bob Magee, a safety specialist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to help judge the photos. Ultimately, he helped us make the tough decision to include a couple of images with apparent safety violations in the final presentation, such as the ironworker whose hardhat is turned backward.

    The reason, part of which is discussed in the story on photography and safety, is what Magee says is the deceptive nature of some photos (see p. 26). A photograph can show a case where a violation is apparent, but not the full context. Magee says that even dramatic photos of ironworkers climbing on open steel may not show citable violations without additional information. And, there remains a proper balance between photojournalism showing the industry as it actually is and how safety experts would like to see it. We expect to hear more from you about it next year.

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