Road Trip: An Orphaned Wall

by Don Friedman on 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 a building that used to be on the lot in the right half of this photo. Judging by the architectural style, that building was probably built between 1890 and 1920. The brown brick building on the left was built later, probably in the 20s or 30s. You can see that the brown brick extends over the red brick, suggesting that the red brick may have built as a party wall, straddling the property line. I’m reasonably certain that the red brick wall is acting as the enclosure wall for the lower stories of the brown building.

Then the red brick building was demolished, but this wall had to stay, or else the interior of the brown building would become exposed to the outside world. The modern glass and tan-brick building was constructed adjacent to the red brick wall but not using as part of the new building. And, there we go!, we have an orphan wall.

It looks strange (most orphaned walls are hidden from view by the front facades) and it’s an unfortunate situation, but there’s little that can be done about it. As I described in my previous blog post, the problems come when these walls are not connected to the newer buildings and therefore are inadequately braced.

Not Quite What They Meant

October 1, 2017

An idyllic small-city residential street: But let’s look close up at that sign: A sign to warn drivers that children are playing (and might, for example, chase a loose ball into the street) is a good thing. This sign, though, is a bit confusing. If the children are playing on a seesaw then they’re not […]

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Planning For Future Floods

September 30, 2017

The South Ferry subway station after Hurricane Sandy, courtesy of the MTA: Here’s a good article on infrastructure improvement, specifically on repairs to mitigate future disasters: 6 rules for rebuilding infrastructure in an era of ‘unprecedented’ weather events. The third rule, “Design for climate change” jumped out at me as it’s something we see every time we […]

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Historic New Structural Detail

September 19, 2017

Even though construction is still in progress – note the blue tarps and the chain fall – that is a beautiful sight that very few people will ever see. That is the inside of a newly-constructed onion dome. The old dome and cupola, which formed the steeple of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Elizabeth, […]

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Research Versus Design

August 8, 2017

Richard Buday’s essay “The Confused and Impoverished State of Architectural Research” in Common Edge is thought-provoking to a degree that I’m not sure how much I actually agree or disagree with it. The core statement, that research is not as prevalent in architecture as it is in similar professions, is hard to argue with, but […]

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Floating Structure

July 19, 2017

It can be a little strange to read how outsiders see in-group activities that you are familiar with. This article in Core77 on the annual concrete canoe races sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers is aimed at industrial designers. It holds up the concrete canoe races as an example of combining hands-on experience […]

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The Turning Point In Frame Technology

July 5, 2017

Ben Evans has a very nice piece on the evolution of technology here: Not Even Wrong. It’s not a completely new idea, but he states it well: there is evolution of a given technology within a type, and there’s development of new types that require new ways of design and analysis. These two kinds of […]

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Why Green Roofs Are Not A Fad

June 21, 2017

People have known about the heat island effect for some time, where the concrete, asphalt, stone, and brick of buildings and streets absorb more heat than a natural landscape would, where black roofs absorb heat, where human activity generates heat, and the relatively lesser amount of vegetation means that the natural cooling from plant respiration […]

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An Idea Comes Around Again

April 11, 2017

The New York Times recently published an article about how the flooding that accompanied Hurricane Sandy has changed building design in low-lying areas of New York City. Some of it seems familiar from our work: for example, we’ve participated in three separate projects where electric equipment rooms have been moved out of basements and up to […]

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Incompatibility: Rooftops

March 31, 2017

Sometimes the incompatibilities we deal with are not inherent in the physical material of the buildings but are the result of multiple conflicting regulations. A good example of this is found at roof tops of landmarked buildings. There are three regulations that I’m concerned with, all of which make perfect sense on their own but […]

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