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Arizona firebox sculpture.

Arizona firebox sculpture

X-ray vision would reveal the inner mechanismsof these distinctive cast-concrete fireplaces: they're simple steel fireboxes, widely available and designed to be disguised. Tucson architect Judith Chafee experimented with a variety of forms to achieve the four examples shown here. In each case, the sculptural concrete shape expresses the functions of intake and exhaust vents for the heat-circulating unit inside.

Around each brick-lined firebox is anothermetal jacket designed for collecting and circulating heat. Intake ducts bring in cool air from down low, near floor level. The fire heats the cool air, which is then vented back into the room through an exhaust manifold. Though electric fans are available for use with these units, the installations you see here operate by convection only.

In two of the units, Chafee used pipe asdecorative elements that highlight the vents. At upper left on this page, terra cotta bell joints, usually used for sewer lines, form caps for the two intake and three exhaust vents. The bells were masked and cast in place, with the top three poking through the plywood forms during the pour. At right, in a whimsical bedroom installation, substantial 4-inch copper elbows cap the vent pipes; after the pour, they were attached to short lengths of pipe cast in place.

Styrene foam and wood were used toblock spaces in the concrete during each pour, creating openings to the circulating jacket as well as masking the firebox and chimney openings. In the unit at upper left on this page, another void creates a box for wood storage.

In some cases, the casting continues highenough to form a wall that can receive and store solar heat as well as heat from the fireplace.

In all four installations, pigment added tothe concrete mix gives a rich earth tone. Once the forms were removed, rough edges and corners were ground smooth with a disk grinder on a drill.

All four chimneys are surrounded by steelor cement asbestos pipe.

Since these units each consist of 2 to 5cubic yards of concrete and weigh several thousand pounds, they were poured over heavily reinforced slab foundations and oversize footings.

Photo: Rugged texture of tinted concrete emphasizes bold sculpted forms. Slot above firebox is warm-air vent

Photo: Bell joints of terra cotta drainpipe cap vent openings fromsteel firebox inside concrete fireplace in Sonoita, Arizona. Welded steel andirons are embedded in concrete floor

Photo: Clean-cut casting with two low intake openingsand one vent slot is topped by oversize steel collar that masks chimney in this Tucson house

Photo: Concealed inside concrete mass issimple, double-wall steel firebox. Styrene foam and wood spacers kept vents and firebox openings clear while concrete was poured

Photo: Copper teeth--they're oversize plumbingelbows--draw cool air off floor, send warmed air into room above firebox
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:concrete fireplaces
Date:Mar 1, 1987
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