Monday, May 18, 2009

Exploded Views

When I first arrived at Sunday's car show I snapped a shot of these fellows beginning the disassembly of a Model T Ford. When I passed by the display again a half hour later, all the component parts were laid out neatly inside the chained-off area of the museum's parking lot.

I talked briefly with a couple members of the team who had done the disassembly. They said they could get the whole thing back together in about twelve minutes. They pointed out that was pretty slow compared to the Ford factory teams who rolled out Model T's at a one-per-minute clip.

While the speed of assembly and disassembly were remarkable then and now, the really interesting thing for me was the opportunity to observe the basic design structure of the car as revealed in the parking lot demonstration.

Seeing the structural components displayed that way really made clear the importance of industrial design for mass production which was the basis for the success of both Ford and the U.S. economy in the 20th Century.

I wrote briefly about a similar experience not long ago following a visit to the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. The yard behind the museum contains a number of partially restored aircraft and rockets, permitting visitors - at least for a time - to appreciate the artful engineering that went into their construction.

This is a subject which architectural and industrial photo specialists have been dealing with for a long time, but I think it remains a fertile field for exploration in a variety of disciplines. A lot of graphic artists have found steady employment producing exploded views for utilitarian purposes. More recently, sculptors have been producing exploded-view installations toward both aesthetic and educational ends. There is an excellent article by Phil Patton at the AIGA site about these recent developments.

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