Failure

Failure Portrait: It Doesn’t Quite Fit

I haven’t done one of these in a while, partly because of the Covid-19 lockdown and partly because of the luck of the draw in which projects I’ve visited. I like this photo because the failure is quite subtle but also completely visible. That’s a piece of a stone-masonry facade, visible up close from a …

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116 Years And It’s Not Enough

People’s responses to tragedy move at their own pace. When I was studying history in grad school I took a course on how memory becomes history, about the process of converting people’s personal memories and current-day news accounts into a historical record. My term paper compared the historical arc of several tragic events, including 9-11, …

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Construction History: Unearthing Cause And Effect

The 1896 Sanborn Map, above, shows a vacant lot at 1078 Madison Avenue. A while ago I became interested in why that lot was vacant at that time, and the answers show a bit about the usefulness and limitations of historical research in our field. The basic facts are simple: a five-story, one-lot apartment house …

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Construction History: A Detail Fails

In the world of US building design and construction, the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the beginning years of the twentieth were largely a search for “fireproof” construction. Ultimately that search proved to be futile, and the efforts switched to timed fire-ratings and the protection of people via better egress and other non-structural …

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Construction History: The Last Straw

That pile of debris was a three-quarters-completed apartment house the day before that picture was taken. The title of the forensic report published in the Transactions of the ASCE, “The Collapse of a Building During Construction” summarizes the event. The questions of what happened and how people reacted to it are more interesting. The Darlington …

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