All Gone But Remembered

by Don Friedman on September 5, 2017

A good and needed piece at The Conversation on demolished buildings. The amount I know about the buildings mentioned varies; I’m by far the most familiar with the old Waldorf Astoria, even though it was torn down before my mother was born. My research into the structure of early tall buildings led me to that hotel and my research on the Empire State Building (which occupies the demolished W-A’s site) led me to its demolition.

The best part of the short descriptions that make up the article is that they mostly focus on what the buildings meant to the community. Even a public and famous building like the Waldorf Astoria is memorable for people’s impressions: glamor is a second-hand trait that accrues when people feel that something is glamorous. I’ve talked about this before (here, for example) but it bears repeating: the point of preserving buildings is to preserve them for people, to save their meaning to the people around them and to save them in use if possible. Otherwise, we might as well just save pictures.

Incredibly Neat

July 9, 2017

That picture is from a site where one panel of the slab has been removed. The right-to-left brown strip is a steel beam exposed by the slab removal; the gray above the brown is the next panel of slab over, intact; and the gray below is a dirty piece of plywood that kept the demo […]

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May 15, 2017

These photographs of the demolition of the Orange County Government Center designed by Paul Rudolph are heartbreaking even if brutalism isn’t your favorite style. It was an uncompromising expression of a never-popular style and, because it required non-standard detailing and repairs, it was not well maintained and had severe problems with leaks. Ultimately, there was a […]

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Unused But Fascinating

April 18, 2017

The abandoned Worth Street Station on the Lexington Avenue subway, from 3am.nightly: There are a surprising number of web pages devoted to abandoned subway stations in New York. The stations are mostly visible if you know where to look as your train runs by them without stopping. Most are on the IRT subway lines (the […]

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They Are Long Gone And I Hate Them Anyway

March 24, 2017

That is a picture of a condition exposed during demolition. If the people responsible for that condition were in the room when i first saw it, I’d be gulping down ice cream to sooth a throat made raw by screaming at the top of my lungs “What is wrong with you people?” In short, this […]

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Lost Twice

March 9, 2017

Here’s a good article on last fall’s demolition of Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As it happens, I looked at a few of the houses about ten years ago, for a preservation plan that (obviously) never got off the ground. At that time the houses were damaged but potentially salvageable; I suspect that the additional […]

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A Bit Bloated

November 7, 2016

That picture was taken during interior-finish demolition in the penthouse of an old skeleton-frame building. Like many buildings of this type, the only setbacks are at the penthouse level, so the penthouse columns are only one-story high and are quite small. In this case, the column section consists of two angles kitty-corner to one another. […]

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September 28, 2016

The white stripes show the gaps between the now-removed lath: Structural engineering is about structure, right? A while ago, while looking at a historic house upstate, we ran into a problem. The building had wood-stud bearing walls sheathed with clapboard and we ran into an obvious problem: the bearing walls were not performing properly. The studs were buckling, […]

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A Very Old Wall and New Bracing

August 11, 2016

I keep talking about the Park Row Building at 15 Park Row (again and again and again) because not only is the work we’re involved with interesting but the building itself is fascinating. The boring picture below (click on it to make it bigger and boringer) contains a great story: That’s the east* face of 15 Park […]

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Progress in Multiple Materials

July 5, 2016

A site visit last week yielded all sorts of results: repairs to a damaged brick wall, new steel in place, new joists in place, old joists resupported on new steel, and (invisibly in this photo) the bearing wall that had supported the old joists gone. Seeing a design made real is still, almost 30 years into […]

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