Michael Patino, RA, Joins Vertical Access

Michael Patino, RA, has joined Vertical Access. He brings over ten years experience working in architecture offices in New York, Atlanta and Madrid and currently serves as the chairman of the Architecture and Historical Review Board of Dobbs Ferry, NY. Michael earned his Master of Architecture from the City College of New York and his BA from Bard College. A Registered Architect and SPRAT Level I certified rope access technician, Michael will be based in our New York City office.

Upon earning his Level I certification from SPRAT, Michael has been quickly brought into the fold as a key member of our rope access team!

14th Annual Bard Birthday Breakfast to Honor Two Who Embody the Preservation and Curation of Archives

Join Kent Diebolt and Berta de Miguel at the 14th Annual Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit on December 19th, presented by the New York Preservation Archive Project (NYPAP).

This year NYPAP is honoring two awardees who embody the preservation and curation of archives at the 2017 Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit (http://www.nypap.org/2017-bard-birthday-breakfast-benefit/). On December 19th the Archive Project will present a 2017 Preservation Award to Janet S. Parks for 36 years of archival stewardship as Curator of Drawings & Archives at Avery Library. A second award will honor the devotion to archival stewardship displayed by the Durst Family. The benefit will also feature a presentation by Kate Ascher on the use of archives in her writings, which include the seminal The Works: Anatomy of a City.

Since its creation two years ago, the Archive Project’s Preservation Award has honored outstanding contributions to the documentation, preservation, and celebration of the history of preservation in New York City. This year the organization turns its attention to those New Yorkers who exemplify archival stewardship through their work in preserving the history of preservation and New York City’s architectural and archaeological past. Archives hold our city’s stories, and without these honorees this history would be lost, moldering in dumpsters or forgotten to the public. At this year’s Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit, join in celebrating the work of our 2017 honorees, whose efforts have allowed New Yorkers to tell the built history of our city in perpetuity.

Award presentations and introductions will be made by author and architect Robert A.M. Stern, former NYC Park Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and J.M. Kaplan Fund Executive Director Amy Freitag.

More information is below and on the event webpage: http://www.nypap.org/2017-bard-birthday-breakfast-benefit/

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When members of the architecture and preservation fields think of archival stewardship, they think of Janet Parks. Before her retirement in June 2017, Parks held the role of Curator of Drawings & Archives at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library for 36 years. Under her curatorial direction, the department made more than 650 acquisitions, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archive (co-owned with the Museum of Modern Art). She has also curated exhibitions on such topics as Ely Jacques Kahn, Max Abramovitz, and the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company. She has lectured and published on Avery’s materials and has worked with researchers from around the world.

About 95 percent of Avery Library’s more than two million archival items were acquired under Parks’s tenure, up from 50,000 items when she began. These include architectural drawings and archival photographs, correspondence, documents, and, increasingly, collections with a digital component. An architectural archive is subject to many internal and external factors, from the care the architect gave to the material, to the time between the archive’s creation and its acquisition, and the number of players involved. Working with architects, firms, and family donors, Parks selected collections for Avery that shape an archive with research and preservation impact.

Her most memorable and challenging acquisition feat was moving the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archive 3,000 miles from Arizona to New York. Between 2013 and 2016 Parks spent a total of six weeks in Arizona packing the archive, which filled the equivalent of six tractor trailers. Soon after the collection made it to Avery, inquiries from around the world began to pour in, connecting the Library staff to, in Parks’s words, “an immediate fan club that wants to write to you every day.” In 2017 she was awarded a Wright Spirit Award by the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy for her role in moving the collection to Columbia. She was also a guest curator of Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that ran through October 2017.

Avery Library’s archives reflect New York City’s rich architectural history, going beyond the canon of practicing architects to include the work of renderers, mosaicists, model makers, photographers, and preservationists. During her tenure, Parks worked with museum curators on loans of 5,000 objects to more than 270 architectural exhibitions, and she directed researchers to materials that were the archival foundation of many publications. Particularly satisfying was connecting building owners to the original drawings in the Avery collections, notably Ely Jacques Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas W. Lamb, and most recently the Philip Johnson drawings for the Schlumberger headquarters in Connecticut.

Summarizing such a vast collection is impossible, but two items are memorable for the role that these archival objects play in capturing the past. One of Parks’s favorite objects is a series of photographs of cast-iron buildings in SoHo, taken by Giorgio Cavaglieri and his office in 1968. Commissioned by Robert Moses and the Lower Manhattan Expressway Project with the purpose of demolishing the buildings, this survey actually served to help convince the public that this area should be designated as an historic district to block the destructive effects of the expressway.

Another favorite are the drawings of Thomas W. Lamb, a leading early 20th-century theater architect, which were retrieved from a fifth-floor dressing room at the Lyric Theater on West 42ndStreet. Numbering more than 20,000 drawings, the collection contained more than just the documentary evidence of a bygone era of New York City history. Parks remembers prying open a tightly-sealed metal tube that held a set of drawings: “The smell of cologne and pipe tobacco wafted out. It had been trapped inside. We all stood around it and we were back in the 1920s.”

Throughout the years the archive’s mission has been to develop a complete cross section of the world of architecture and a comprehensive record of the architectural process, one which would have, in the words of Talbot Hamlin, Avery Librarian in the 1930s-40s, “a permanence that actual buildings do not always achieve.” As Parks observed, “That is so true in any place, but in New York especially.”

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This year’s second 2017 Preservation Award will be awarded to the Durst Family, which has also displayed a particular devotion to archival stewardship. In 2011 the Dursts, one of New York City’s most respected real estate families, donated Seymour Durst’s Old York Library Collection to Avery Library. This collection comprises 40,000 objects that were collected by Mr. Durst throughout his lifetime including historic photographs, maps, pamphlets, postcards, books, and New York City memorabilia from the 18th century to the 1980s, as well as architectural documentation, including renderings, plans, and photographs from the Durst Organization Archives. “The Old York’s collection was fueled by my father’s passion for New York City, especially its history, buildings, and architecture,” said Wendy Durst Kreeger, President of the Old York Foundation. Along with this gift to Avery Library, the Durst Organization also announced an unprecedented $4 million gift to catalog and house the collection, create a digital Old York library to ensure broad access to the materials, and create innovative new cross-disciplinary programming at Columbia University.

The Dursts also facilitated the creation, in 2016, of the NYC Archaeological Repository at the Nan A. Rothschild Research Center. The Repository is a climate-controlled space, donated by the Durst Organization, that contains over a million archaeological artifacts collected by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from over 31 sites in all five boroughs. Prior to the creation of the repository, archaeological collections were stored at 14 sites throughout New York City, some of which were not ideal for artifact preservation. The Durst Organization also helped support an accompanying website that provides unprecedented public access to these collections.

The Repository was named for Dr. Nan A. Rothschild, a Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Barnard College, a member of the faculty of Columbia University, and a cousin of Helena Durst, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Durst Organization. The name honors Dr. Rothschild’s contributions to the archaeology field; she has directed several seminal New York City archaeological excavations, including the Stadt Huys excavation, the first major excavation in New York City. “This project marries two of the passions of our family: the preservation of our City’s heritage and history and our contribution to the built environment,” said Helena Durst. My cousin, Nan Rothschild, has made her life’s work the archaeology of New York and we are thrilled she is being honored with the naming of this center. My grandfather, Seymour Durst, while a developer by trade, was a passionate collector and archiver of New York history and ephemera and he assembled this lot and oversaw the construction of this building. He would be very pleased that this center is opening here.”

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The Archive Project is thrilled to continue the archival theme of the 2017 Bard Birthday Breakfast Benefit with a special lecture by Kate Ascher on the archival research done for her writings, the most widely-known of which is The Works: Anatomy of a City. Ascher is a Principal and leads the United States practice of Happold Consulting, the urban development subsidiary of the British engineering firm Buro Happold. Prior to joining Happold, Kate held positions at Vornado Realty Trust and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. She is also a faculty member at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, where she serves as the Milstein Professor of Urban Development and teaches courses in the Real Estate Development program. Her areas of expertise include waterfront planning and development, privatization and municipal services, and infrastructure planning—including transportation, parks, and energy.

In addition to her professional experience, Kate has published a number of books about cities, including The Politics of PrivatizationThe Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper, and The Works: Anatomy of a City, which explores the invisible infrastructure that supports life in New York City. She is currently acting as editor, alongside Tim Mellins, for New York Rising, which tells the story of the evolution of New York City’s built environment through items from Seymour Durst’s Old York Library Collection. Each chapter features contributions by well-known academics who have selected items from the collection to comment on events or trends particular to the period from which the item dates.

Our honorees and speaker are therefore inextricably linked through archives, making this year’s benefit a celebration of the archival bonds that tie our fields together. Join us on December 19that The Yale Club of New York City to learn from esteemed author Kate Ascher and honor the archival work of 2017 Preservation Awardees Janet Parks and the Durst Family!



Announcing the TPAS 2017 Release Webinar

TPAS 2017 is here! Join TPAS LLC and Vertical Access for a live, interactive webinar on October 11 at 1pm EDT to learn about the new 2017 features as well as the basics of the Tablet PC Annotation System. Vertical Access uses TPAS for direct-to-digital surveys, saving time in the field and in the office.

Visit the TPAS Blog for more information about the 2017 release and webinar, or click here to register.

Reviving Hospitals and Asylums for the 21st Century

Abandoned hospitals and asylums may be a horror film cliche, but the statistics on vacant, threatened, and demolished institutional complexes are all too real. Search “abandoned asylum” and the first hit is an article on the popular website Atlas Obscura: “18 Abandoned Psychiatric Hospitals, and Why They Were Left Behind.” Of the hundreds of asylums built in the U.S. during the 19th and early 20th centuries, most became underused or vacant during the deinstitutionalization movement of mid-20th century. Some have been repurposed, but many more await revitalization.

Partial demolition of the New York City Lunatic Asylum. Library of Congress, call number HABS NY,31-WELFI,6–2

Psychiatric hospitals are challenging to reuse. Many of them are physical reminders of tragic chapters in the history of mental health treatment, and often include patient burials on the site. Some contain buildings that have been vacant for decades, subject to neglect and vandalism.

But there are many reasons why hospitals and asylums are historically significant and should be preserved. First and foremost, they are places of memory for understanding and recording the histories of the thousands of individuals who lived and died on their grounds. Former hospitals also serve as a record of the changing attitudes about institutionalization and treatment of mental illness in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries. And, many are recognized as works by master designers and as examples of the prevailing architectural styles of their times. Tuberculosis sanatoriums, smallpox hospitals, and soldiers’ homes are among other institutional building types sharing some of the same challenges and opportunities for adaptive use as asylums.

The Richardson Olmsted Complex in 1965. Photo by Jack E. Boucher. Library of Congress, call number HABS NY,15-BUF,9-1

These complexes also contain durable building stock representing a significant amount of embodied energy. Many of the sprawling campuses were designed to be self-sufficient farms, so they have plenty of room for sensitive infill or new construction to meet accessibility standards and modern needs. Hospitals across the U.S. have been repurposed for contemporary healthcare uses, education, and housing. Buildings on the campus of the Richardson Olmsted Complex (formerly the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and now a National Historic Landmark) have been reborn as Hotel Henry and the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center, while other buildings have been stabilized for future renovation. The campus recently hosted enLIGHTen, an outdoor concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with a custom-designed light show projected onto the H.H. Richardson-designed main building. The Richardson Olmsted Complex is one of 34 remaining hospitals out of 75 originally designed according to the “Kirkbride Plan”, an approach developed by Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride that placed an emphasis on design in order to contribute to an atmosphere of calm and healing.

Binghamton’s “Castle on the Hill”
By Kfbill08 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11013391

Closer to our home office in Ithaca, the former New York State Inebriate Asylum in Binghamton (now also known as the “Castle on the Hill”) is a National Historic Landmark awaiting rehabilitation. It was chartered in 1854 as the first facility in the U.S. to treat alcoholism as a medical illness, but was converted to a mental hospital in the 1870s. Plans were announced in 2008 for SUNY Upstate Medical University to revitalize the complex, but the project was abandoned during the recession. In 2015, Binghamton University took over stewardship of the property, and exterior work is expected to begin in early 2018.

Vertical Access on site at the St. Elizabeths West Campus, U.S. General Services Administration. Photo by Vertical Access.

Another large campus currently undergoing long-term revitalization is the 346-acre St. Elizabeths in Washington, D.C. (also a National Historic Landmark), where Vertical Access recently completed a smokestack investigation working with Atkinson-Noland & Associates and Goody Clancy. The multi-phase project includes repurposing some existing buildings, mothballing others, and adding new construction in order to house the United States Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017 is on exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C through January 15, 2018.


Historic Ithaca Executive Director Search

Historic Ithaca is seeking candidates for the position of Executive Director. Established in 1966 as a community response to threats to downtown Ithaca landmarks, HI is the non-profit voice for preservation in Tompkins County and the Finger Lakes Region.  The new ED will join an exceptional team of staff, board members, and volunteers promoting the values of historic preservation and livable communities throughout Tompkins County. From job training and architectural salvage to grassroots advocacy, technical services, and educational events, Historic Ithaca makes a big impact in our community. Click here for details on the job posting and to learn more about HI’s work.


Scaffold Law Reform Day at the Capital was a SUCCESS!

Evan Kopelson returned from the Scaffold Law Reform Day at the Capital with good news: new legislation has been introduced by Assemblymember John McDonald aimed at modernizing the liability rules under the state’s Scaffold Law. If passed, this fix to New York’s arcane law will go into effect January 1, 2018.

Advocates for reform gathered at the state capitol to urge legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix this only-in-New York Scaffold Law, and highlight the law’s impact on taxpayers and local governments.

As part of the day’s events, Assemblymember McDonald announced the bill he has sponsored that will provide significant saving for local governments and help keep New York insurance premiums in line with other states while keeping the law’s safety provisions intact.


To view the bill: http://scaffoldlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/A5624-McDonald-Bill-Text.pdf

For  more on the Scaffold Law Reform efforts: http://scaffoldlaw.org/

Welcome Erin Bullard!

erin3We’re excited to have Erin Bullard join the firm as Director of Marketing and Business Development supporting our Vertical Access, Alta Access, and TPAS services. Erin brings 10 years of experience in the A/E/C industry. Armed with a BS in Physics she sought work in engineering firms but realized marketing is more fun so she earned a BA in Creative Writing Arts and headed to the creative side. Always inquisitive, the science background has come in handy in the A/E/C industry and though she’s afraid of heights, Erin’s pretty excited to join our team.

Scaffold Law Lobby Day 2017

scaffold-law-reform-logo-2017On Tuesday, February 14th, advocates from across New York will meet at the State Capitol in Albany to urge elected officials to reform the antiquated Labor Law Sections 240/241. Evan Kopelson will be attending to show his support for scaffold reform. Here are the facts.

This law, first enacted in the 19th century and sometimes referred to as the Scaffold Law, is the only law of its kind in the country that imposes absolute liability on owners and contractors, without regard to cause and with virtually no opportunity for defense as part of a due process procedure.  This has had a huge economic impact on construction costs, ultimately costing New York taxpayers an estimated $785 million annually, and making some businesses and projects uninsurable.

Join us in the fight. This is your chance to make your voice heard! Registration is free, and you may bring guests.   http://scaffoldlaw.org/scaffold-law-lobby-day-2017/

Mesa to Mountain: Preservation in the American West


Registration is LIVE for Mesa to Mountain! Join us in Salt Lake City, Utah from March 23-25 for a symposium hosted by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International. Vertical Access is a sponsor of Mesa to Mountain and founding principal Kent Diebolt is a co-chair of the local planning committee.

Salt Lake City is a crossroads of the American West and abounds with historic resources and projects that will be of interest to APT members from across the country. Mesa to Mountain will explore the rich history and unique preservation challenges of this region with a focus on western sites, materials, and conditions.

The symposium kicks off on Thursday, March 23 with a plenary address, “The Architectural History of Utah”, and reception at the historic Alta Club. Friday begins with a keynote addresses, “Paths, Pathogens, Ponies, and Wheels: How Trails Changed the Cultural Geography of America” and “Preserving the Traditional: The Limits of Traditional Skills as a Preservation Approach”. Friday continues with a full day of paper sessions following three tracks: Seismic Retrofit of Historic Buildings, Materials and Construction Techniques, and Cultural Heritage Management. On Saturday, three full-day field sessions will take participants to historic sites and preservation projects in the Salt Lake City area.

Click HERE for the full conference program.

APT is an approved provider of American Institute of Architects continuing education Learning Units (LUs). LUs will be available for paper sessions and tours.

Visit the symposium web page for more information.


Happy Upjohn, Cram, and LaFarge Day!

In the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church, December 16 is the feast day celebrating Richard Upjohn, Ralph Adams Cram, and John LaFarge for their contributions to church architecture.

Richard Upjohn (1802-1878) is credited with advancing the Gothic Revival style in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. He is among several architects of his era who produced vastly influential books of residential designs, which were copied from and adapted by builders across the country. Upjohn designed several dozen churches, primarily located in the eastern U.S.

Richard Upjohn buildings worked on by Vertical Access:

  • St. Peter’s Church, Albany, NY (1876)
  • Christ Church, Binghamton, NY (1855)
  • Grace Church, Utica, NY (1856)
  • Trinity Church, New York City (1846)
  • Trinity Church, Princeton, NJ (1870)
Upjohn's Trinity Church in Princeton, NJ

Upjohn’s Trinity Church in Princeton, NJ

December 16 is the birthday of Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942). Working primarily in the Gothic Revival style, Cram designed many churches, academic and public buildings over a career spanning 40 years. Cram contributed to the “Collegiate Gothic” movement through his designs for Princeton University in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Ralph Adams Cram buildings worked on by Vertical Access:

  • St. Thomas Church, New York City (1914)
  • Cleveland Tower (1913) and Princeton University Chapel (1928), Princeton University
  • Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City (ca. 1909)
  • Cadet Chapel (1910) and Thayer Hall (1911), United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
  • Park Avenue Christian Church, New York City (1911)
Cram's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City

Cram’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City

John LaFarge (1835-1910) was a fine artist and writer who found success as a muralist and innovative stained glass designer. His murals and stained glass windows grace the interiors of churches and public buildings throughout the U.S. His son, Christopher Grant LaFarge, became an architect and produced the original Byzantine design for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, later redesigned in the Gothic Revival style by Ralph Adams Cram.

Buildings worked on by Vertical Access that feature works by John LaFarge:

  • Trinity Church, Boston, MA (1877) Interior murals and stained glass windows by LaFarge
  • St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, New York City (1907) Stained glass windows by LaFarge
  • Cathedral of All Saints, Albany, NY (1888) Stained glass windows by LaFarge
The commission for Trinity Church, Boston launched La Farge's career as a muralist

The commission for Trinity Church, Boston launched La Farge’s career as a muralist