Bathing Steel

by Marie Ennis on April 3, 2017

There was an article recently in the Brownstoner about a project to restore the last public bath to have opened in New York City, later known as the Brooklyn Lyceum. Old Structures was brought in to assist in designing anchorage for the large, projecting cornice but ended up also designing supplemental steel at the perimeter of the building, including columns. Shaquana Lovell was our project manager, working with Walter B. Melvin Architects.

Inside the soaring space on the second floor, the steel columns are visible, but the upper portions, and the roof spandrel beams, are not. The roof slab consists of a series of concrete arches formed on curved, corrugated metal sheets. The first step in diagnosing the problem was to observe the condition of the projecting cornice and parapet wall. The terra cotta had shifted visibly outward, with variable, wide, open joints and cracks throughout. Upon removal of the terra cotta units (some for salvage, some to be replicated), the reason for the deterioration became obvious. The upper steel columns and spandrel beams were badly corroded, necessitating the installation of shoring to temporarily support the roof. With the roof shored, and the developer committed to restoring the building per an agreement with the City, Old Structures was asked to come up with a fix that would not completely halt the project. The columns, some built up with plates, others laced or “lattice” columns are very slender and tall, which implies the masonry walls (brick and terra cotta) were sharing lateral load with the columns to some extent. The columns had been encased in brick keyed into the facade as a way of bracing the masonry. We needed to support the gravity loads of the roof and brace the facade walls by internally reinforcing the landmark building. The solution was to abandon the existing columns in place and to erect new steel columns on either side. Spandrel beams were replaced and the load transferred to the new steel structure. The masonry was reinforced across the bed joints and perpendicular to the wythes of brick to stiffen the walls at the column locations where it is tied to the new steel.

Yes, the building is beautiful, and the terra cotta is really wonderful. Now that the roof is re-supported and the walls braced, I can enjoy the facade when I walk by.

Shifting terra cotta units at the parapet level:

Both spandrel beams required replacement; the column was supplemented with new steel tubes.

View from the interior of existing laced/lattice column and pair of new steel tube columns:



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