OSE Blog FAQ

by Don Friedman on May 8, 2017


Seeing as how we’re north of 500 blog posts (as of May 2017), it’s probably too late for a Frequently Asked Questions post, but here it is anyway.

  • This is the blog of Old Structures Engineering. Most of the posts are written by me (Don Friedman) but not all.
  • Topics include pretty much anything touching on civil engineering, history, historic preservation, and New York City, with special emphasis on topics that combine two or more of those basic issues.
  • We generally put up one post per day, skipping holidays, but that can change.
  • Posts are usually written a week or two before they are published.
  • Unattributed pictures are either ours or in the public domain.
  • Clicking on pictures usually gets you a larger version of them.
  • We don’t allow comments because we’re busy working on engineering projects and don’t have time to address comments. That said, if you take the time to email us about something in the blog, we’ll respond.
  • This post will stay at the top of the heap for now. New posts will appear below.

Road Trip: An Orphaned Wall

October 16, 2017

Seen on the street in Ottawa… I’ve mentioned orphans walls once before. They are what’s left when old walls are incorporated into new buildings in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible to demolish the wall when the original building is demolished. In this case, the light-red wall with white trim obviously belonged to […]

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Road Trip: Hanging

October 15, 2017

That’s a picture of three men on bosun’s chairs cleaning a glass curtain wall in central Ottawa. Bosun’s chairs have fallen out of favor in New York, so I don’t get to see this very often. A fifteen-story or so building like this back home would have either tracks for a scaffold built into the […]

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Road Trip: For Show Or For Blow

October 14, 2017

(Ignore the flying porpoises. I have no idea what they are.) That’s the roof of a shopping mall in Ottawa. Are those trusses real structure or just for show? Their form (diagonals sloped for tension, deepest at midspan) and location (paired on either side of the columns) both make sense as real structure. If so, […]

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Flavors of Obsolescence

October 13, 2017

This article in Curbed gets the facts right but also, by accident, emphasizes a point of unclarity that has led to a lot of sensational headlines over the years. There are some 2000 bridges of various types in New York City, most of them small. It sounds horrifying that 76 percent are “functionally obsolete” and […]

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Road Trip: Adaptive Reuse Hotel

October 12, 2017

I’m currently at the APT conference in Ottawa, and that’s my hotel, the Metcalfe, above. It was built circa 1906 as a YMCA and has been converted to a nice boutique hotel. You can always repurpose a building if you want to.

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A Concrete Building

October 11, 2017

A market hall in Wrocław, Poland: That’s how you do exposed concrete. The hall has the basic layout of a church, with a cross plan for the high gable roof and lower infill between the cross arms. The roof and its clerestory are supported by a series of parabolic concrete arches, which intersect at the […]

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What Is A Building’s “Material”?

October 10, 2017

Curtesy of Marcin Wichary: I’ll almost certainly be getting this map of “Concrete New York” but I find the discussion on Curbed to be problematic. In my opinion, New York does not have an iconic city-center concrete building the way that (among others) Boston, Chicago, and Washington do; the best concrete building nearby has been altered […]

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Obsolete But So Very Beautiful

October 9, 2017

  My family went to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome recently and spent an afternoon surrounded by planes from the 1910s and 20s. Here are four of them flying stunts in formation (click to enlarge): Everything there was great – has there ever been a better name for an airplane than “Tiger Moth”? – but there […]

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Repurposing Obsolete Technology

October 8, 2017

Mechanical mice benefited from the use of trackpads: the pad surface let the ball on the mouse underside roll smoothly and the pad was likely to be a bit cleaner than the surrounding desk and so slowed the ball getting clogged with lint. Optical mice don’t need pads most of the time. It never even […]

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From a Distance

October 7, 2017

Lower Manhattan used to be famous for its lack of vistas. The combination of very tall buildings, very little open space, and a seventeenth-century Dutch village street plan meant that you were lucky if you could see five or six blocks. Changes came gradually, as a result of the 1960 zoning law encouraging plaza construction, […]

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