APT 2013 NYC – The Guastavino Vault Workshop

During the recent Association for Preservation Technology (APT) conference — APT NYC 2013 Preserving the Metropolis — Kent Diebolt, Kevin Dalton and Berta de Miguel, from Vertical Access, organized a Hands-on Construction of “Guastavino” Thin Tile Vaults workshop. Other faculty fellows worked in conjunction with VA members: Benjamín Ibarra, Assistant Professor of Architecure UT Austin, Mallory Taub, an Energy Specialist at Arup in San Francisco, David López López, Architect and PhD candidate in the Block Research Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland and Marta Domènech Rodríguez, PhD candidate in the Architectural Design Department at Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), Spain. The team was assisted by Ken and David Follet, from Precon Logstrat, LLC, “consultants with tools”.vault-dwgs

The workshop consisted of building two small tiled vaults: a groin vault and a barrel vault with lunettes. The vaults, of approximately 6×6 feet were built with tiles measuring 7 3/8″ x 3 3/4″ x 5/8″ donated by Boston Valley Terracotta.

The venue for the event was the atelier of Ottavino Stone Corporation, kindly donated by that same corporation, which is celebrating their centennial this year. Additional funding came from the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology through APTI and Vertical Access LLC. We cannot thank our sponsors enough for their support!

The attendees were an interesting group of 21 people from different nationalities and backgrounds such as architects, material specialists, engineers, architectural conservators, preservationists and project managers from companies and organizations such as VanNostrad Architects, UNESCO, Consigli Construction, Superstructures, Built Environment Evolution, Washington National Cathedral, Williamsburg Preservation Tec, Murray Engineering, Alternativist/Urban Earth, Evergreene Architectural Arts, Old Structures Engineering, Bennett Preservation Engineering, Atkinson-Noland & Associates, FGMDA Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet & Associates, Goldsmith Borgal & Company Architects, Heritage Building Conservator, Robert Silman Associates, Building Conservation Associates and and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates.

The workshop lasted two full days. During the fist day, the forms for the arches were set in place, plumbed and fixed. Next, the tiles of the arches were set with plaster of Paris for the first layer, and mortar cement on the second and third layers. Once the arches were completed, the webs of the vaults started to close the vaults from the arches to the center.

The first layer was set with plaster of Paris due to the rapid setting time (10-15 seconds approximately). During the second day, once the first layer was finished, the attendees, divided in two teams, started and finished the second layer, set up with mortar cement, which confers strength to the structure.

By the end of the second day, everybody took turns standing on the vaults. We all learned a lot from each other and gained an appreciation for the skill that it took to build these full-scale vaults. Finally, and most importantly, we all had a wonderful time.IMGP9925


> Watch a video news story about Rafael Guastavino that includes time-lapse footage from this workshop and interviews with Berta de Miguel and Kent Diebolt. The piece was produced by RTVE, a public broadcasting station from Spain.

A portion of our annual contribution to 1% for the Planet helped support this event. Read a short post about how VA got involved with One Percent Print.

Guastavino Vault Workshop at APT NYC 2013 Conference

clientuploads/2013_conference_art/P1080599.jpgSponsored in part by a grant from NCPTT Workshop.

Fri, Oct 11, 8:00 – 5:00
Sat, Oct 12, 8:00 – 4:00
Location: Ottavino Stone

“American architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would often leave empty spaces in their blueprints and simply write, ‘Guastavino here.’ They had faith that Rafael Guastavino would create elegant, highly functional spaces to grace their buildings. Guastavino — part architect, part engineer — was particularly famous for his beautifully crafted, structurally powerful, tiled arched vaults.” (An excerpt – read the full article from the Boston Globe.)

Participants will have the opportunity to construct a variety of simple “Guastavino” vaults. The morning of the first day will involve a demonstration of the construction, after which, teams of approximately six participants will have the opportunity to undertake “hands-on” construction of these vaults. Vaults will be constructed of single, double and triple wythes of tile, and may be load tested at a later date.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Lay out and initiate a simple tile vault
  2. Mix mortars to appropriate consistency and quantities to install both soffit and structural tile wythes
  3. Set soffit and structural tile to progress through multiple-wythe construction
  4. Experience the sequence of construction, including the breaking of joints
  5. Strike and clean joints, particularly in the soffit layer of tile
  6. Develop an appreciation for the craftsmanship that has been lost since the construction of vaults in so many important buildings across the United States

For more details visit the APT NYC 2013 Conference Website

Documenting Historic Resources at the Tremont Nail Company

by Kelly Streeter

Tremont Nail Factory in Wareham, MA

Tremont Nail Factory in Wareham, MA

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak to a Bachelor Design Studio class from Boston Architectural College (BAC) and demonstrate the documentation of historic resources using TPAS™.  Professor Johanna Rowley is directing her students in a case study at the 19th century factory of the Tremont Nail Company in Wareham, MA, a practical application of research and field work with real world implications.

Ms. Rowley first became aware of the site in 2011 while working on a BAC-funded project to investigate disaster recovery at restoration sites in the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit Springfield in 2011.   The site was purchased by the town in 2006 when Acorn Manufacturing moved the nail operation and has languished unused ever since.  Ms. Rowley’s goal is to mobilize her students and the community to help Wareham stabilize and document the site as an initial step in the effort to determine how the adaptation of the buildings and site could serve to fill existing needs of the community.

I met with Johanna and her students to discuss the goals of the site inspection.  The class had previously prepared background drawings from field measurements and archival data.  We then went into the field, with two separate teams working together with a TPAS™ kit to document and photograph the existing conditions at the site.  This information will now be used by the class to assess and prioritize the preservation needs of the site.

It was a fun day at an amazing landmark.  To follow the effort,  “Like”  their Facebook page.

Read article, Hammering out Tremont Nail’s restoration in Wareham

Register for TPAS Webinar Feb 26

Free TPAS Webinar
FEB 26, 2013 (Tuesday)
12:00 EST

Join us for an overview of the functionalities of TPAS including new and upcoming features. Q + A will follow.


TPAS software uses AutoCAD functions and formats you probably already know. It’s loaded into a ruggedized tablet PC linked to a digital camera along with project drawings letting you experience total digital inter-connectivity on site by entering graphical and numerical data, photographs and notes directly into your existing files.

And now, web-based TPAS report portals allow you to interactively search, view and format all project data and photographs within an internet browser.  You can create, edit and print reports from the browser without opening AutoCAD. This new feature  reduces the time and resources your project team spends on reporting tasks for complex, data-driven projects.

Vertical Access uses TPAS for existing conditions documentation, but its applications are as limitless as the reporting needs for your architecture, engineering or construction projects.

For morKelly-with-TPAS-CUe info:

Questions? Contact Kelly Streeter, PE at  kelly@tpasllc.com


Flume Fever – The Video

Catching Flume Fever
by Mara Ferris of Gen 9 Productions

Never realizing its rich history, I have stopped many times along the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic byway to view the remnants of the spectacular wooden structure hanging high on the red rock walls above the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers. As a filmmaker based in Western Colorado I had photographed the structure several times and always pondered the story behind this vibrant piece of living history.  Thankfully my team was hired to film the Hanging Flume reconstruction project in April 2012 and our knowledge of the rich and colorful history quickly grew. We caught ‘Flume Fever’ as soon as filming began!

Contracted by Western Colorado Interpretive Association to film the reconstruction and produce a short video we had the pleasure of spending four days shooting footage, gathering interviews and learning the story of the structure.  This short documentary will be used as an educational tool to help inspire future historical preservation projects along the scenic byway and promote the preservation of our local history for future generations. It was a thrill to see the Vertical Access team work, and I am grateful we were all able to share in the ‘Flume Fever‘ – enjoy the trailer to the film here!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/51223922 w=440&h=247]

Watch the full-screen version of the Flume Fever trailer here

Building a Vault in the Style of Rafael Guastavino


Kent Diebolt, founder of Vertical Access, recently spent two days in July working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with John Ochsendorf, a group of his students and two masons from the International Masonry Institute (IMI), building a mock-up of a vault in the Guastavino style for the upcoming exhibition, Palaces for the People. Years since its first conception, John was recently successful in getting funding for a major exhibition that opens this fall at the Boston Public Library and will travel to the Museum of the City of New York and The National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

Our interest in the mock-up project was to construct portions of the vault with known faults (primarily delaminations between tile wythes). VA Partner Kelly Streeter has done some preliminary NDT testing using ultrasound to evaluate the structural integrity of multi-wythe tile vaults that has been promising. The MIT vault, constructed with known delaminations at varying depths will allow for more empirical testing of the technology. Kelly and Kent will be presenting the results of this ongoing research at the Construction History Society of America (CHSA) meeting at MIT this fall.

We’d like to say thank you to John for including us in this effort. It was another great learning experience and a pleasure to share in the group’s enthusiasm for the work.

Additional Information:

The Guastavino Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

VA Research, The Guastavino Timeline 1842 – 1968

Kelly Streeter to Present to AIA Delaware and APT Washington, DC

Vertical Access Partner Kelly Streeter will be giving two presentations on May 24 this week.  The first presentation at 11 am is sponsored by AIA Delaware and will take place in Smyrna, DE.  This presentation, with Leila Hamroun-Yazid of Heritage Design Collaborative and Michael  Luciani of Hill International, will examine a collaborative approach to “Facade Inspection and Maintenance.”

Kelly’s second presentation is part of the Association for Preservation Technology Washington, DC chapter’s “Third Thursday Lecture” series.  The presentation, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm is entitled “Using Technology to Document Existing Structures” and will take place at the National Trust for Historic Preservation office at 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.

RESTORE offers 2011-2012 Masonry Conservation Course

Here’s some information that we’d like to pass along from a colleague in our community of conservators, architects, and engineers …

Registration is now open for Masonry Conservation 2011-2012, a two-semester program of classes, labs, and field workshops designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills needed to handle complex preservation and maintenance issues encountered in the field.  Classes start NOVEMBER 15, 2011.

This is the 35th year that RESTORE  has been offering training in the technology of architectural conservation with their team of nationally and internationally renowned faculty.   Tuesday evening classes are held in New York City and are approved by the Professional Development Committee of the AIA. Graduates will receive 50 AIA continuing education learning units, 14 of which qualify for AIA Health, Safety, Welfare credit. Participants include a diverse cross-section of building design professionals, craftworkers, contractors, cultural resource and facilities managers, architectural conservators and preservationists.

SCUP Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, March 6-8 in Williamsburg, VA

The Mid-Atlantic Region of The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) held its annual conference from March 6 to 8 in Williamsburg, VA.  Vertical Access partner Evan Kopelson attended the conference.  Most of the events of the conference took place on the campus of the College of William and Mary, which contains a wide range of significant buildings from the Wren Building, the oldest college building in the United States, to a new state-of-the-art business school designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects.  Most of the 200 plus conference attendees were architects, planners and engineers, with a large contingent of college and university representatives and a smaller number of equipment and support service vendors.

The Wren Building, College of WIlliam and Mary


One of the interesting features of the conference was that about half of the presentations were interactive sessions, which combined a technical presentation with complete audience participation.  All participants had the opportunity to participate in design charrettes, role play as various team members discussing sustainability options and even play “Scupopoly” to understand the intricacies of campus real estate planning.  Case studies presented over two days of concurrent sessions examined various aspects of higher education planning, from academic curricula to renovations of interior spaces to the design of entire new campuses.  The interactive sessions as well as the overall atmosphere of the conference promoted a sense of collegiality, partnership and sharing of knowledge.