April 2016

Not Just Structure: Hanging Incidentals

by Don Friedman on April 29, 2016

Mona took a picture of a random, minor detail that is stranger than most of the work-related details we see.


That’s a bunch of baskets hung just below the ceiling from ropes on pulleys. Apparently this was a locker room without lockers: people would put their belongings in a basket, pull the rope to raise the basket, and then tie the rope off. I’m not sure how this system is superior to a bunch of simple lockers. Maybe it takes less floor space, but the ropes interfere with free use of the room.

Strange. Very very strange.


April 28, 2016

There are a lot of weird side paths you can examine once you start looking at construction history. I want to talk a bit about Luxfer prisms. That panel above the roll-down shutters is not ordinary glass block. It’s a group of Luxfer prisms, intended to catch nearly-vertical daylight and deflect it to go nearly […]

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Reputation Versus Reality

April 27, 2016

We all tend to simplify. When we talk about SoHo architecture, there’s an unstated assumption that we’re talking about cast-iron. The SoHo historic district is the biggest collection of cast-iron facades in the world, true, but that’s not all that’s there. That’s the corner of Spring and Wooster, in the heart of SoHo and there’s not […]

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Fixing, Not Replacing

April 26, 2016

Our practice occupies a slightly strange position in the world of design and construction. As I’ve discussed, we work towards saving old buildings because we believe that saving old buildings is worthwhile not for some nebulous ideal of preservation but because reuse saves energy and materials, and saves the cultural associations of the existing built […]

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When Is A Crack Stable?

April 25, 2016

When is a crack stable? Gathering data over time allows an engineer to make a judgement about when a crack is worsening, or if it is stable. Believe it or not, the attached output from an electronic crack gage are readings of a stable crack. The gages were installed in a Federal period building in […]

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Looks Old, Isn’t

April 22, 2016

Whether you find these photos as beautiful as I do is a matter of personal taste. Beyond that, however, is an interesting aesthetic decision: the photographer, Scott Frances, has used various techniques to make his current-day pictures look old in order to fit the noir label. From Scott Frances by way of Curbed.

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Cast In Metal

April 21, 2016

One of the non-structural, arguably-unimportant advantages of cast iron is that you can cast literally any pattern that doesn’t contain fine lines. You can, for example, cast your company’s name into a piece of a building: The Jackson Iron Works is reasonably famous. I had not heard of Mr. Throckmorton, but it turns out he […]

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Hardware and Structure

April 20, 2016

When we examine traditional wood and masonry buildings, the line between hardware and structural material is often blurry. This is an 1850s loft during an apartment renovation. We’re looking at a wood column and a wood girder; the floor joists above are hidden by the still-being-installed gyp-board ceiling. There are two pieces of metal visible (click to enlarge […]

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A Building Ghost

April 19, 2016

Another random picture, this one taken by Gabi of an orphaned rowhouse. I can’t tell if the row originally extended to the right, but it quite obviously did extend to the left. You’re looking at the second through fifth floors of a (now) five-story building, with a two-story commercial storefront extension in front of the […]

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What Is Arching Action?

April 18, 2016

A phrase that inevitably shows up when we discuss structural action within masonry walls is “arching action.” Usually, when we say that we mean that the masonry (most often brick, but not always) is acting as if there were an arch even though there is not. Let’s see it: The hard-burned tan face brick has […]

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