Farrodyne U.S.A. Wins
 International Stone Competition

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   The international “Prism 2003” prize for originality and excellence in design, craftsmanship and use of natural stone was awarded to Chicago's watercutting and design center, Farrodyne U.S.A.

   Our firm won first place in the commercial category for the project “New Altar Platform at Historic Old St. Patrick's Church” (Photo 1), a Chicago church that was built in 1854 and survived the city’s Great Fire of 1871 (Photo 2).

   The judges cited us for devising a way to cut, inlay, glue and install 512 Celtic marble shapes to form a single, unbroken 24' circle with invisible joints.

   As a result of our waterjet and design solutions, the architects successfully achieved the integrity of their design, and the stone contractor saved time on installation.

How We Did “The Impossible”

   On the one hand, we needed to keep the installation as simple as possible (Figure 1). On the other hand, we wanted to preserve the artist’s intent - a continuous pattern without visible breaks.

   We met both goals with a little artistic license. By extending two lines and adding one line, we turned the 16 pattern repeats into 16 interlocking modules (Figure 2). We cut, inlaid and glued complete modules that fit together like a puzzle (Figure 3).

   These unique modules were asymmetrical, weighed some 200 pounds and measured about 
5’ x 2 1/2’ x ¾". At first it sounded “like a huge slice of Swiss cheese!” How would installers lift such fragile stone without the marble cracking or the pieces falling out? the architects wondered.

Playing with Puzzles

   First we edited the electronic CAD file. Editing is critical because “what you see is what you cut.” The waterjet cuts any line or shape that appears on the computer file - including those that don’t belong there and are nearly invisible! 

   A complex design, this one required more fine-tuning than usual. With about 32,000 entities in the electronic file, we had to zoom in several times to find and delete randomly located extraneous lines - hidden deep in the bowels of the CAD file.

Cut and Paste

   The trickiest part of producing such an intricate stone design was moving the 16 background sections from cutting table to assembly table. Not because they each weighed about 75 pounds, but because the “cutouts” weakened the 5’ x 2 1/2’ sections, making them vulnerable to cracking (Photo 3).

   The 512 inlays were cut (Photo 4) and carefully inserted by hand. From bird beaks to eyes, each fit into a  respective “cutout.” Forced into the wrong one, an inlay could break or the edge of the “cutout” could chip (Photo 5). The inlays were glued in, and a special backing affixed to each module.

   For extra protection, we built a made-to-measure crate, lining it with custom cut Styrofoam to fit the irregular contour of the modules. When it was fully loaded, not one module had broken.

Say, “Cheese!”

     On a cold day in December, the 2-ton crate was hoisted onto a truck and delivered to the church. Dozens of onlookers stopped to watch the stone-masons unload the modules by hand and carry them up a flight of stairs, through the vestibule and all the way to the front of the sanctuary.

   Nothing broke. Everyone exhaled! A few days later the modules were installed, forming a perfect circle with joints that faded into the background (Photo 6).

The Envelope, Please     

   Entries to "Prism 2003" were received from around the world for the creative use of natural stone in design and architecture in two categories - commercial and residential.

   The panel of judges included prominent members of professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects; American Society of Interior Designers; Construction Specifications Institute; International Interior Design Association; and Tile Contractors Association of America.

   Farrodyne U.S.A. was honored to receive this prestigious award (Photo 7), which included coverage in Stone World, Stone Business, Tile & Stone and other trade publications.




Copyright © 2004 Farrodyne U.S.A. Inc.  312.226.0772


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