Striking the “Gru”

Here in Spello, a red construction crane (“gru”) has been an unwelcomed part of the skyline of the town for more than two years. The diocese has been converting the San Lorenzo church to apartments for “sale” to the elderly (with the price dependent on the age of the buyers, and upon the deaths of the buyers, the apartment reverts to the diocese to be re-sold). The construction company has had the gru up to lift ceiling beams and roofing materials into place, as well as heavy materials like heating units and building supplies (pallet after pallet of plaster and concrete, often). The gru is built in sections, with the heavily-weighted base right in the center of the job–and the long swinging horizontal arm moving materials from a spot right near the bar with the best coffee and gelato in town, Bar Tullia–also right across from the entrance to the elementary school.

Extra-long flatbed truck backs up toward the crane

Extra-long flatbed truck backs up toward the crane

I was passing by on the way to a meeting when I saw an extraordinarily long flatbed truck negotiating the turn in the main piazza, and then backing up into the narrow street near the bar. It took several attempts to get the trailer just so, with several men guiding the driver, backing up straight and within the confines of the narrow area, and then I noticed a very long portable crane set up outside the church. The new crane was brought in to lift the sections of the red gru, and lay them down on the street. Then the pieces were carefully re-attached to the crane’s hooks, and lifted into the long bed of the backward truck, especially long to accommodate the length of the sections of the gru.

The first piece of the gru is lifted up and over the street

The first piece of the gru is lifted up and over the street

The section is slowly lowered to the street

The section is slowly lowered to the street

I took a few photos, then kept my appointment. When I returned about an hour later, some of the pieces of the gru were already on the ground, and more were being lifted up out of the center of the church, and added to the pile. Slowly, each one was hooked up horizontally, and a ground crew helped guide the sections onto the truck, where they were tied down securely. The men were not wearing hard hats, or any particular safety gear that I could recognize–most not even wearing gloves. One slip of any part of that crane would have crushed anyone in the way–but no one seemed to be concerned. People like me were walking around under the suspended pieces of gru, just trying to get beyond the roadblock and go about their day. (Cars could not possibly pass, with the truck and crane completely blocking the only street through upper Spello.)

Sections are tilted down horizontally, near the truck bed

Sections are tilted down horizontally, near the truck bed

One section is lower down onto the street

One section is lowered down onto the street–there was no safety gear evident, and pedestrians were walking by just to the side of the huge sections

A section is lifted horizontally by the crane

A section is lifted horizontally by the crane

Each section is lifted and positioned on the bed of the waiting truck

Each section is lifted and positioned on the bed of the waiting truck

The crane stabilizes the section until it is tied down securely

The crane stabilizes the section until it is tied down securely

I crossed the safety barriers myself, and was encouraged to do so by the men at work, suggesting better photo places where I might stand. I made my own choices, thanks–and then got out of the way in a hurry. Never, however, was I under a multi-ton piece of metal swinging over my head.

The next section is added to those on the truck

The next section is added to those on the truck, and the chains are released

Crew are securing the sections with tie-down straps

Crew members are securing the sections with tie-down straps

Soon the truck was fully loaded, and pulled forward to take the gru sections back to a yard somewhere, ready for the next installation. I could see into the open door of the church, and the base of the gru was still there inside, so the scene would have to be repeated again–the long-bedded truck backing up, the exterior crane lifting sections up and out of the church, putting them down on the street, and then lifting them again, into the truck, for removal.

A full load, the truck begins to slowly negotiate the downhill slope and right angle turn

With a full load, the truck begins to slowly negotiate the downhill slope and right angle turn

The last sections of the gru are still visible inside the church doors--the truck will return for the last sections

The base sections of the gru are still visible inside the church doors–the truck will return to carry away the rest of the sections and the concrete weights at the base

I am looking forward to a chance to photograph Spello again without that crane breaking the skyline. It was red, and never “blended in,” but it has served its purpose, and now is being taken down and trucked away. I could not be happier to see it go.

(May 8, 2014)

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