November 2016

Historic Structural Detail: Customized

by Don Friedman on November 30, 2016


Even at its peak of popularity, cast iron was known to have problems. People used it so extensively 130, 140 years ago because it was the strongest material they had and because they could do so much with it, even with its flaws.

One of the advantages of cast iron is in its name: casting. Any shape required could be cast, giving iron freedom that we associate today with concrete. Because welding wrought iron and steel was not a realistic possibility in the nineteenth century, it was not possible to make similarly complicated shapes out of rolled plates and angles without the use of numerous rivets or bolts.

The picture above shows two steel beams supported on a stiffened-seat bracket that projects from a rectangular-section cast-iron column. Since the beams are different depths (because they span different lengths and therefore needed different moment capacities) the bracket splits to accommodate both. That’s a quite elegant solution compared to, say, the shims that might be used for a similar connection in steel.

Filing and Recycling

November 29, 2016

Not our office: I’ve talked about the B Corp idea and how recycling fits into it. And I’ve talked about the replacement of paper with PDFs. And I’ve talked, amazingly enough, about filing systems. It’s time to combine those topics…or in other words, regrind my axe. We’ll be moving our office shortly – all of […]

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Subways and Buildings

November 28, 2016

Construction of the original IRT subway at the Brooklyn Bridge station, 1904: Construction of the BMT*** main line, Broadway and 38th Street between 1913 and 1915: As those photos show, a lot of early* subway construction in New York was built using the cut-and-cover method, where a street is excavated, tunnel structures built in the hole, […]

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For The Long Weekend: History and Ephemera

November 27, 2016

Not in the exhibit, but a nice old poster: The Museum of the City of New York has opened a permanent, gradually changing exhibit that tells the city’s history through objects. There’s nothing in that idea that I don’t think is great.

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For The Long Weekend: Miniature

November 26, 2016

Just what the world needed: architectural emoji. And fancier ones than these: 🏢 🏛 🏗 🏘 🏙 🏠 🏤 🏫 🏬 🏭 And just for OSE: 🏚

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For The Long Weekend: Having A Good Time

November 25, 2016

A humpback whale is having fun in the Hudson (image by Paul Price):

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A Change of Pace: New Buildings

November 23, 2016

It’s overly cute for my taste, but this New York Times article on recent buildings in the city has a lot to recommend it. Most importantly, while New York is and probably always will be a vertical city, some of the most notable new buildings are low-rise. My personal theory – I have no proof, […]

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Is it okay to move your neighbor’s building?

November 22, 2016

This post is not about how people move structures, like the Hamilton Grange or Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, fascinating stuff. This post is about something that is occurring more frequently in New York City than in the past, it is unintended, and is directly related to the construction boom going on recently in the city. Although […]

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The Feel Of It

November 21, 2016

The APT conference this year, for the first time, had an engineering competition. Unlike engineer-society bridge competitions, this one had a historical component: the students’ bridges were supposed to represent the technology of the nineteenth century, in addition to being tested and measured for their load-carrying capabilities. Here’s the Carleton University team’s bridge (and part […]

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For The Weekend: The Office

November 20, 2016

The more things change, the more things change.

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