Construction of the house for the film “The Empty Room” began in early September. Or original plan was to space the build out over several weeks and fire stories as they dried, but after a test build we determined that the box construction would require more dry time than anticipated so we opted to push the build into one very intense week.As with all projects we began with prepping clay and pressing the molds, one story at a time. Each story needed about 100 lbs of clay wedged and weighed out into specific slugs to accommodate each mold. Each floor was about 3 days, clay prep was the first.
The second day was focused on pressing the molds and preparing the wall for assembly. This was a huge job, as the pieces are very complex and have many details that needed to be prepped on the same day. Not only did we make molds for the build, but also many of the tools were custom-made for the project. This tool was designed to give us perfect cuts on the edges of the walls and floor so we could more precisely control fit.
The day following pressing was assembly. The floor was put in place first and the corner with the stairs was attached to the floor. This is the second floor. The cut outs pictured here will be for the staircase on the floor beneath.
Once the corner was reinforced and secure, the staircase was attached. We began with the landing and the bottom half and built up from there. These pics are also of the second floor and so include a handrail that is not present on the first floor.
After the stairs we put on the remaining two walls were applied. With each wall the corners and other details from the molds had to be tuned back up as handling was somewhat damaging.
Another thing we learned from the test build was that the walls wanted to move quite a bit during the drying process. To control this to some degree Gabe devised a cap to fit into the flange and stay with the floor throughout its shrinking and firing process. This was a fairly last-minute addition to the group of molds and had to be resolved quickly, so the original was made from a combination of wood and clay.
The first two floors were very similar and so we could build a skill set from one two the next and refine the process. The third floor was another matter, There are far more windows on this floor and another wall inside the structure. It also has a large facade and a roof. Mold prep was the same in many ways, but with molds we had not yet used in an order that we had not tested, this was the greatest challenge of the project.