August 2016

Data Points

by Don Friedman on August 31, 2016


Part of the logic of historic preservation as cultural resource management is that it really can’t be imposed from without. If people don’t like a building, calling it a landmark won’t make them like it more. (This was, in my opinion, why the effort to save the Huntington Hartford Museum failed, and the building was altered to the point of being unrecognizable. You will search long and hard to find praise for the original building dating from the period before it was scheduled to be altered.)

There is currently a research project being run by three people at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation* that is actively looking for people’s opinions about preservation, specifically on historic districts. There’s a nice write-up here and the survey is here. Let your voice be counted: be a data point.

* Conflict note: I teach at Columbia as an adjunct. I am not in any way involved with this research project.

The Star Trek Fallacies

August 30, 2016

Spoiler warning: this isn’t really about Star Trek.* The first Star Trek fallacy: Nothing requires maintenance. Seriously, what does Scotty do in-between battles that destroy half of the ship? We see the engineering crew members monitoring something or other on computers, but does nothing on board ship ever require physical maintenance? This is science fiction, so […]

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San Francisco Joins The Club

August 29, 2016

San Francisco now has a facade inspection law. For those interested in such things, it applies to buildings five or more stories tall** and, more interestingly, has the timing of the first inspection related to the age of the buildings, with older buildings having their reports due first. There is also a provision that obviously […]

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For The Weekend: Vacationish

August 28, 2016

The New York Times had a nice write-up on the Dry Tortugas, including Fort Jefferson, an old project of ours. It’s arguably the oddest place I’ve ever worked: an abandoned fort on an island in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, with limited fresh water and communication. But it’s pretty, in itself and in […]

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For The Weekend: Saturated

August 27, 2016

Not to get all boosterish, but this time-lapse video of New York is amazing to watch. This type of time-lapse is fairly new. Here’s an older high-tech form of tourism, the stereograph postcard: By using a stereoscope, you could get a 3D image – in this case, of High Bridge – in 1868.

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Looking Up

August 26, 2016

I spend a lot of time convincing building owners that it will help them in the long run if they allow probing – let us have a contractor cut some holes in non-structural elements to allow us to see the structure. Then I walk into a store and look up and see everything I need […]

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Historic Structural Detail: Prefab

August 25, 2016

A column in the same 1920s concrete building as yesterday [click to enlarge]: The column has been stripped of its original paint, exposing the rough surface of the concrete. The form marks are clearly visible on the capital, and a little less distinct on the shaft. In theory, the columns could have been formed in […]

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Mona Abdelfatah Is A PE

August 24, 2016

Mona Abdelfatah recently passed the professional engineering exam and is now a licensed PE in New York State. She received an undergraduate degree from UC San Diego in Structural Engineering and had a couple of years of experience with renovation and new construction projects before coming to Old Structures in 2011. At OSE, she has […]

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Historic Structural Detail: Thin Stairs

August 24, 2016

Fire stairs in a 1924 concrete-frame warehouse: The brown paint is the edge of a concrete slab spanning from the right side of the landing on the right (above the lower door) to a wall out-of-frame off to the left. It’s four inches thick and spans about twelve feet; the treads are simply triangular extensions […]

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Historic Structural Detail: The Edge

August 23, 2016

I’ve mentioned heavy-timber construction before. Here’s an interesting detail from an old warehouse: The planks above are four inches thick and splined to one another, which is typical in heavy-timber construction to prevent hot gas from a fire burning through to the next floor. (The thick wood in this kind of construction will char but […]

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