Frame Raising the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors’ Center

Over the weekend of June 17th-18th, 2017 I participated in the main frame raising of the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors’ Center in Schuylerville, New York. The building was selected as the Timber Framers Guild Community Building Project for 2016. The timbers were cut to size and much of layout completed in the summer and fall of 2016 but delays in the construction of the foundation pushed the frame raising back until the summer of 2017.

 

From June 14th-16th volunteers and guild members assembled bents, prepared the worksite and raised the first two bents. On Saturday, June 17th additional volunteers arrived and the remainder of the Gateway Visitors Center frame was raised. The bents were raised “by hand” using an A-frame, that was guyed at two ends, as the focal point for the rigging. Once the frames were rigged, two lines, with about 20 people in each, pulled on the haul lines until the frame was upright and free-hanging. Workers on the deck then guided the posts into pockets in the flooring as the haul teams lowered each bent. The bents were then braced and floor joists installed, connecting each bent to the next. A crane was used to install the tie plates, purlins and rafters while workers straddled timbers or worked form scaffolding to receive each unit. Once each piece was lowered into to place a gang of hammer swingers went to work driving 7/8” or 1” diameter round pegs into the mortise and tenon joinery, tying the frame together. It was a long day but the crew managed to finish raising the main frame just before sunset.

 

This being my first experience working on a timber framing project I was impressed with the accuracy required in the layout and cutting of joinery. It is amazing how each piece fits perfectly onto the receiving member even when there are multiple connection points along a given unit.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t commend project manager Neil Godden for a safe and efficiently run project and acknowledge all of the instructors for their hard work and patience with those volunteers who were unfamiliar with timber framing.

 

You can read more about the project on the Timber Framers Guild Community Building Project blog.

The Ruins of Chan Chan

On a recent trip to Peru I had the opportunity to visit some of the ruins at Chan Chan, located in La Libertad province around the city of Trujillo. Built around 1200, Chan Chan served as the capital of the Chimu Kingdom until falling to the Incas around 1480. The city covered 20 square km, was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and a monumental example of earthen architecture. At its height Chan Chan is believed to have had a population of around 60,000 people.

Due to the consistency of the swells in nearby Huanchaco, I was preoccupied with surfing for most of my time in the Trujillo area and only visited the Tschudi Complex, a relatively small section of the Chimu city. In all the city consisted of 9 walled citadels, or palaces, so there are several more interesting sights worth visiting.

Preservation efforts at the Tschudi Complex, which is the only section of Chan Chan that has been partially restored, are ongoing. Most of the architectural details are modern recreations though there are a few originals that remain. Due to its geographic location on the northern coast of Peru the ruins are susceptible to erosion from the heavy rains brought on by the El Niño phenomenon so much of the Tschudi Complex is now covered by a protective roof structure, which I found to be interesting in its own way. Upon returning to Huanchaco I immediately recognized some of the same architectural motifs at the Instituto del Mar del Peru, Laboratorio Costero de Huanchaco.

Besides being an important cultural site I think that Chan Chan is also a powerful example of ecological construction. It’s interesting to see how a 500+ year old city constructed of locally sourced, earthen material slowly returns to it’s original form leaving almost no trace of it’s existence. Try to imagine what a modern city will look like 500+ years from now.

Learn more about Chan Chan on the UNESCO website.

Feats of Clay: Philadelphia Brick and Terra Cotta – Exhibit at University of Pennsylvania through Oct 9

I recently attended the opening reception for Feats of Clay: Philadelphia Brick and Terra Cotta, an exhibition on the legacy of Philadelphia’s brick and terra cotta industry at the Harvey and Irwin Kroiz Gallery, The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, curated by Frank Matero.

FeatsofClay_ScreenAnnouncementThe exhibit included artifacts from now demolished buildings designed by Philadelphia architects Frank Furness and Cope and Stewardson, brick from works by Louis Kahn as well as examples of some of the cities most underappreciated residential works such as Edgar V. Seeler’s Conkling and Armstrong House in the city’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood and the Morris Fleisher Residence designed by Willis G. Hale and located in the Fairmount section of the city.

Featured alongside the architectural works were interesting catalogs, brick samples and maps of past and present Philadelphia area brick and terra cotta manufactories such O.W. Ketchum, Sayre & Fisher Brick Company, McAvoy Brick (which still operates in Phoenixville, PA) and some wonderful examples of the ornamental clay products produced by Peerless Brick Company.

Having trained as a bricklayer since the age of 18, I spent several years working out of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union (Local 1 PA/DE) in Philadelphia and have grown to love the wonderful brickwork that is ubiquitous in Philadelphia. This exhibit focuses on the city’s long and storied history of brick manufacturing and the architectural masterpieces that resulted and also serves as a stark reminder of the treasures that we have lost.

For those of you who are brick enthusiasts like me, you can find some of these amazing brick and terra cotta remnants of the past for purchase at several architectural salvage stores in and around Philadelphia such as: Provenance Old Soul Architectural Salvage, Philadelphia Salvage Company and Harry Bambi Supplies.

Gallery hours are 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday-Friday.  The exhibit runs through October 9, 2015.

 

 

 

Removal of the Clock Hands on Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus

We recently worked on an interesting project at Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx.  Our mission: to remove the clock hands from four clock faces on the tower of Keating Hall and one clock atop LaLande Hall in Martyrs Court.

The hands were removed and turned over to The Verdin Company so they could be restored. Once restored, the hands will be re-installed. The project was coordinated by Bob Rush with Structure Tone, Inc.

The crenellated parapet at the top of the tower on Keating had bird protection on the top of the walls so we had to lower ropes through the crenels and climb up to the clock which was about a 150’ climb from the roof of the main building below.

The clock hands were pretty big; the hour hand was a little over 6’ long and the minute hand was over 7’ long. We rigged all the hands to lower before loosening any of the nuts or bolts that connected them to the shaft.

One of the minute hands was stuck and we had a really hard time removing it. It typically took us 30-45 minutes to remove both hands on each of three out of four faces but we spent over 3 hours on the southeast face on the first day trying to remove the minute hand without success. It was a little over 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the wind was blowing 15 – 20 mph directly into my face so I decided to accept defeat and go get warm before moving onto another set of hands. We came back to the southeast face the next day with a specialty tool provided by Dennis Lindo from The Verdin Company and after a few minutes the hand was free.

We finished up the second day at Martyrs Court which was only about 50’ off the ground but in an area that is difficult to access with a lift. Due to icy conditions on the roof we thought it safer to toss the ropes out to the face of the building and climb up from the ground. After almost 1,000’ of vertical climbing at Keating Hall 50’ was a walk in the park.

When I arrived at the clock face I had the minute hand off in a matter of minutes but the hour hand looked like it might take hours to remove. It was completely rusted onto the shaft and wouldn’t budge. Luckily the entire mechanism is being replaced so Dennis cut the shaft from the inside with a reciprocating saw. The white part of the clock  is just a thin piece of glass (probably 1/8” thick) so we had to saw very carefully. Fortunately we were able to keep the shaft off the glass and the hand came off without incident.