Eastern Millwork 'Draws' A Big Number For Super Bowl 48

Mill Cabinet Carpenters, Local Union 252 Bring Life to Architect's Concept

When Harvard-educated architect John Nastasi needed a super sign for the city of Hoboken to celebrate Super Bowl XLVIII, he was confident of the visual impact his creation would have. But Nastasi had a vexing question every artist with a deadline faces: Who would deliver the project within a super-tight schedule, while maintaining his vision?

The vision was a 12-foot "XLVIII," sign, representing 48 in Roman numerals, that would be perched and illuminated at the Hoboken Pier overlooking the Hudson River. The sign is 12 feet tall, 60 feet wide and four feet deep.

Nastasi turned to Andrew Campbell, president of Jersey City-based Eastern Millwork Inc., (www.eastern-millwork.com) a company that he had previously used because of their craftsmanship and his faith they could complete the project in an incredibly short time.

"The project would normally take three months and they asked us to complete it in two weeks," Campbell says. "We were excited by the project, but it had an unusually tight schedule."

Campbell, whose firm is a member of the Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey (www.ACCNJ.org), represents the blend of skill and technology that union carpenters and contractors preach as a new advantage. While the average union carpenter can spend upwards of five years in training classes, millwork carpenters are often considered the artists among this group.

Eastern Millwork was able to provide the workers and the technology for the project by crafting the sculpture robotically, which entailed slicing, gluing and screwing more than 300 pieces of plywood by hand.

Campbell says the initial idea was to use steel possibly for the sign, but cost, weight and wind became factors. "There's a tremendous amount of wind at the [Hudson] river," Campbell said. "I said: 'Why don't we do it out of plywood?'"

His cabinetmakers were able to piece it together connecting "technology to the craft," Campbell says.

Campbell says he always promotes the blend of technology and craft when bidding on projects, especially when the competition is outside of New Jersey.

When recently competing against a Canadian firm, "we kept all that work in New Jersey," Campbell says. "Labor costs might be higher, but we're able to leverage our technology and superior staff to equalize low-cost labor from the outside."

"I knew Andrew had a first-class team backed up by the right technology," says architect Nastasi. "The real winners in all of this are the residents of Hoboken and New Yorkers across the river, who can appreciate a work of art linked to the Super Bowl."

The sign is part of the Hoboken Huddle, a weeklong festival of food, activities and entertainment during the week preceding Super Bowl XLVIII.