Historic Preservation

A Site With Useful Information And An Unfortunate Name

by Don Friedman on September 14, 2017


Preservation engineering (or conservation engineering outside of North America) is relatively new and suffers from a number of problems common to newish subfields. The biggest problem, from my perspective anyway, is a lack of basic common information. If I want to explain to clients energy-code issues with glass curtain walls, there are any number of resources I can point them to. But if I want to discuss the problems with say, increasing loads on cast-iron columns, I’m on my own. I don’t mind starting from scratch, but it’s often easier and more persuasive if there is a good public resource to use.

Enter the Institution of Civil Engineers (UK) and their Best Practices guides. One of those guides, in among the information on contracts, risk codes, and other modern connects, is the Conservation Information Resource. It’s basically an annotated bibliography, written by Bill Addis, a lifelong devotee to engineering conservation. Even though the format is simple, I find it very useful, as it gathers together in one place a number of disparate resources. It’s UK-centric, as one would expect, but fortunately the issues at hand are based on materials and engineering analysis and therefore translate well.

The site is so good that I have nothing but praise for its content. I do have a quibble about its name: Conservation Information Resource for Civil Engineers is shown as abbreviated as CIRCE. In my opinion, neither Circe nor her current-day namesake is someone I would look to for freely-given help.

Code Intersectionality

September 12, 2017

There’s been some discussion in the last couple of weeks on the topic of Belgian Block paving – usually and somewhat incorrectly referred to as cobblestones – being impassable for people with mobility issues. A solution exists for this particular problem, which is to provide smoother pavement at crosswalks. This allows people in wheelchairs or […]

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The Persistence of Stubborn Buildings

September 8, 2017

One more group of old photos, this time a Brooklyn-centric exhibit at BRIC. It so happens that one of the buildings pictured, and one of the two featured in the Brownstoner article, is the headquarters of the New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company. We were part of the team that worked on the recent […]

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All Gone But Remembered

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 […]

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Classic Damage Nicely Illustrated

August 28, 2017

It’s easy to come to the wrong conclusion here: it certainly looks like the mortar in the joints between the stone is being squeezed out, so that it projects from the stone face. Mortar of any kind doesn’t act like that – it’s not putty – but this is hard mortar with portland cement binder […]

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Grand Central

August 6, 2017

When you live with a topic for a long time, it’s easy to forget that everyone else doesn’t know all the details. In case anyone has ever wondered about how it is that Penn Station was demolished and Grand Central survived, here’s a good primer.

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Preserving Modern Buildings

August 3, 2017

2030’s hot preservation project: Interest in historic preservation of modern architecture is fairly recent, really getting going in the U.S. only in the last 25 years or so. This article on the restoration of a Louis Kahn building helps put some of that in perspective. The distinction between architectural preservation and structural preservation seems to […]

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Too Late

July 28, 2017

The Binghamton, as photographed by Greasywheel: It’s unfortunate that the Binghamton is being demolished. It is said to be the last relic of the steam-powered, double-ended ferries* that were once everywhere in the New York area, crossing the rivers and bays. That era is not coming back and it would have been nice to have […]

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Difficult Choices

July 27, 2017

This is an excellent article in Urban Omnibus on a really knotty problem in East New York. It’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city and doesn’t have a lot of distinguished architecture because it was never richer than working class. The few buildings worthy of note, like Our Lady of Loreto Church in the […]

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Fame to Obscurity to Fame

June 16, 2017

An important disclaimer: Old Structures has nothing to do with the building and project described here. But we can can certainly recognize good work in our field regardless of personal interest. Temple Court, an 1880s office building on Beekman Street is nearly unique. It was one of the first ten-story buildings in New York, it […]

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