It’s Christmas time! Lights are being strung from the roof tops of homes and businesses all around the country. It’s a beautiful sight. In Kansas City we have a lighting ceremony at the historic Country Club Plaza, a shopping district built in 1922 which has the longest life span of any planned shopping center in the history of the world. Christmas lights were put up on the buildings for the first time in 1925, and the tradition has continued to grow year after year. The lighting ceremony signals the true beginning of the holiday season. As magnificent as this is, I couldn’t help but notice the shape of the buildings now illuminated by lights. Most all of the buildings are sharp cornered squares, and relatively the same with the exception of a tower and the varying heights. As I moved northward there was such a contrast with the addition of the newer buildings in downtown such as the Sprint Center and Performing Arts buildings. Each of these has curved outlines — one looking like a giant fishbowl and the other has a rooftop that looks like the waves of the ocean tide. Many of the newer buildings have unique shapes and provide a much different, fun, and interesting Christmas lighting display. These works of art are made possible through the use of curved steel which gives life to many ideas.
Curved steel beams may be the foundation for many buildings which allow for a completely different architectural look than those of the past, but it was curved steel pipe that provided much support to the fish bowl shaped Sprint Center. Curved pipe is used in so many applications you can find it everywhere if you just keep your eyes open. Curved pipe as handrails for circular staircases provide an ever flowing stream of Christmas lights for the homeowner lucky enough to have one, fencing around swimming pools, or a ribbon like railing around skating rinks lit up for the holidays. Curved pipe can be found in pedestrian bridges or bank parking lots.
Round pipe seems to hold up well to the stresses of bending. The very nature of its’ curved sides reduce some of the issues we encounter when bending other shapes. When using metal pipe in a project you should always be aware of the possibility that with tighter radii the pipe may begin to oval. This risk can be reduced if expectations are communicated in advance of production. Aesthetically I think curved pipe makes the biggest statement as it has no sharp angles so it seems to flow in two separate dimensions. There is the outline of the pipe itself along with the radius manipulated by the rolling process. With a little imagination, good planning, a few pieces of pipe, and a good rolling partner, we could have one of the most beautiful holiday lighting displays ever!