TBC symposium in Brooklyn

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Manhattan Bridge as seen from one of Brooklyn’s city streets. (NYCgo.com)

The latest Traditional Building Conference, next week in Brooklyn, will feature a host of seminars that together emphasize how major traditional projects can influence the evolution of traditional building techniques.

The Dec. 5-6 symposium, spanning Tuesday and Wednesday, at Grand Prospect Hall (263 Prospect Ave.) and other venues, will assemble various themes that feed into the close relationship between what is being built and how it is being built. The opening lecture will be by Francis Morrone, the noted architectural historian with his finger on the interplay between historical preservation and development in booming Brooklyn.

To the extent that development projects feature restoration of old buildings and new construction that fits into Brooklyn’s range of historical settings, the tools, materials and practices used in construction will differ to some degree from those used on modernist projects. The evolution of each factor proceeds along largely separate tracks, just as evolution in traditional and modernist design proceeds gradually or lurchingly, as the case may be.

In this regard, the most intriguing seminar could be about the proposal by Richard Cameron, of Atelier & Co. in Brooklyn, to rebuild Pennsylvania Station, in Manhattan, as originally conceived by Charles Follen McKim of the Gilded Age firm of McKim Mead & White. The proposal got a major boost from the journals Traditional Building and Period Homes, whose editor emeritus, Clem Labine, will join Cameron on the panel.

Penn Station opened in 1910 and was demolished in 1963. Its foundation and trackage remain intact, and elements of its granite structure and decoration may still be where they were dumped in New Jersey’s Meadowlands. Clearly, however, so much has changed since it was built that its cost requires total reconceptualization. To an extent, whether the proposal moves forward depends on the degree to which supporters and major donors (private or public) can be persuaded that new techniques and new methods of practicing old techniques can play a major role in producing savings.

The latest thinking on this subject will form a part of the Penn Station presentation, as the seminar’s first “learning objective” suggests:

Explain the original building craft work lost when Penn Station was destroyed and how rebuilding a new building would use both traditional craft and modern design and construction technologies.

A major project like rebuilding old Penn Station would also affect the market for traditional products and services, leading not only to the expansion of firms and the increase in competition among them, but to speeding market entry for new products and services that would be needed for such a grand endeavor, especially to reduce its cost.

Other panels of the symposium might also be framed to elicit useful information about the influence of major traditional projects on the construction methods at all levels of traditional design and construction. Here is a list, in order, of the other panels:

  • On Tuesday, the headquarters of Brooklyn’s fire department, built in 1894 and designed in the Romanesque style by Canadian-born architect Frank Freeman, will be used as a case study in restoring terra cotta roofs.
  • A tour of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, with work by Stanford White, Warren & Wetmore, Richard Upjohn, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, will update attendees on the latest practices for repairing stonework.
  • A tour of the Brooklyn studio of EverGreene Architectural Arts will directly convey the wisdom of traditional architects’ long practice of treating art and artisans as integral to architecture, not as the pathetic afterthoughts of most architecture today.
  • Principals of the Atlanta firm of Historical Concepts will present the Georgia town of Senoia (“sun-noy“) as a model of how to “extend existing historic districts through precedent-based infill and redevelopment.”
  • The Penn Station panel will conclude Tuesday’s presentations.
  • On Wednesday, Aaron Ruby of Allison+Partners, in Little Rock, Ark., will address the reclamation from near-extinction of long-leaf yellow pine as the species of choice for beams and structural members, in new or in restoration work, as at Little Rock’s William Woodruff Print Shop. (Code compliance officers, call your office!)
  • Robert A.M. Stern Architects will discuss the relocation of the Hartford campus of UConn from West Hartford to downtown Hartford as part of an ongoing trend in higher education, including the preservation of the classical Hartford Times newspaper building as part of RAMSA’s role.
  • Gerner Kronick & Valcarcel Architects will present a case for why its project in New York – The Beekman, involving preservation and adaptive reuse of two old buildings and the addition of a modernist 46-story condo tower – deserved one of this year’s Palladio awards.
  • The work of Old World Stone, of Burlington, Ont., on Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will offer information about Brooklyn’s beloved brownstone, including “essential documentation, assessment, and replication of missing architectural elements and provide insights into the performance characteristics and proper installation of brownstone.”
  • The advantages and disadvantages of steel window frames and doors in restoration or new construction will be explored and compared, new vs. old, by representatives of the world’s leading supplier of its product, Critall Windows Ltd., of Witham, Essex, U.K., in the symposium’s final presentation.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to TBC symposium in Brooklyn

  1. michael tyrrell says:

    David, that view is of the Manhattan Bridge -not Brooklyn Bridge… might want to fix that : ) Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!… Michael

    On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Architecture Here and There wrote:

    > David Brussat posted: ” The latest Traditional Building Conference, next > week in Brooklyn, will feature a host of seminars that together emphasize > how major traditional projects can influence the evolution of traditional > building techniques. The Dec. 5-6 symposium, spanning T” >


  2. Oh, jeez! Thank you, Dan.


  3. Daniel Morales says:

    David, that’s the Manhattan Bridge.


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