A few blocks from our office is a small industrial building from the 1800s which is being renovated for new use after several years of standing empty. Part of the work was the removal of the old signage and storefront finish that encased the original stone storefront. This process exposed the oldest signage, which was …

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Historic Structural Detail: Cast Iron, Hiding In Plain Sight

More from Tuesday’s site visit. At another opening in an interior bearing wall, we had an interesting-looking lintel (click to enlarge): First, some clarifications about this picture. The main opening, at the bottom, is original. The smaller opening above it (at the green arrow) was a later alteration, probably to pass a ventilation duct through …

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Historic Structural Detail: Elegant Steel

I was on site yesterday, reviewing the conditions exposed in an 1890s building after the interior-finish demolition complete. At an upper floor, there was an opening about eight feet wide in an interior brick bearing wall; rather than have a steel lintel that spanned the full distance, there was a steel lintel supported in the …

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Without Walls

The defining feature of skyscraper is that a structural frame* carries all of the loads imposed on a building by gravity, wind, and earthquakes – usually called a skeleton frame. The phrase “curtain wall”, which long predates the construction of skyscrapers and meant simply a wall not carrying interior floors (as in a fort), was …

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Another Road Trip: Terra Cotta

I found myself recently in downtown Ann Arbor, looking at the First National Bank Building. My first reaction was “Look! A cute baby skyscraper!” (In my defense, this was the day before New Year’s and I was in a relaxed state.) The building was well designed and has been well maintained. The terra cotta skin …

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