Friday, July 23, 2010

Technology Marches On

I recently had to explain to the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission why my office was proposing using GFRC (fiber-reinforced thin-shell concrete) to replace damaged terra cotta ornament on a historic building. The short version is that the original system for some of the ornament was badly flawed, and rather than recreate the flaw 90 years after the fact, we prefer to fix it.

Something I didn't say, and shouldn't have to say to a bunch of preservationists, is that architectural terra cotta in its day was not a precious and highly-regarded material, but rather an inexpensive way to fake carved stone. This is exactly what GFRC is today. So our proposed replacement copied both the appearance and the rationale behind the original while improving structural performance, while a painstaking recreation of the original would have been false in terms of constructive logic and would have the same problems (inadequate handrail capacity at a balustrade, terra cotta exposed to leaks from a poorly-placed gutter) as the original. I'd like to believe the A/E/C community is capable of learning from mistakes and can improve a detail when it has failed.

10 comments:

Rusty Shackleford said...

GFRC (fiber-reinforced thin-shell concrete)

Acronym FIAL

N__B said...

Officially Glass-Fiber Reinforced Concrete, but that is, IMO, not descriptive enough.

Substance McGravitas said...

Once upon a time Carnegie Mellon museum in Pittsburgh had a huge room full of walls. Snooty folks would see buildings or temples they like and mold them - of course damaging the originals - and the museum got a whole bunch of the copies together in one place...kind of eerie and scary. Dunno if those were part of their collection...

Another Kiwi said...

museum in Pittsburgh had a huge room full of walls.
By jingoes that'd be a crowd puller!

N__B said...

What the fuck are you talking about?

Substance McGravitas said...

Oh nothing.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I'd like to believe the A/E/C community is capable of learning from mistakes

I wouldn't think an engineer would be so badly out of touch with reality.

Milwaukee: A precast cladding panel falls off a parking structure, tragically killing one; therefore the County removes the cladding panels FROM AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PARKING STRUCTURE THAT SHOWS NO EVIDENCE OF FAILURE.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

museum in Pittsburgh had a huge room full of walls.

without walls, it's not a room.

Now you owe me $150 for the professional opinion.

N__B said...

Your hourly rate is too low.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

tell me about it.