Archive for the ‘Historic Preservation’ Category

Restoring the Homes of the ”One-percenters”…in Turkey 1AD!   Leave a comment

Restoring the Homes of the ”One-percenters”…in  Turkey 1AD!

The Terrace houses (on-going excavation and restoration under the protective cover) can be seen just opposite The Hadrian Temple in the ancient city of Ephesus.  The arches in the distance are the façade of the Celsus Library which contained 12,000 scrolls.
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One of the most remarkable finds since Pompeii is under restoration in Ephesus.  Once a major Roman port city in Western Asia, the city ruins are a wonderful map of life from 1 c. BC to 4 c. AD when this bustling port city enjoyed financial success and virtually invented the concept of banking, coins and credit cards.

Of particular note are the Terrace Houses which have recently been uncovered.  They were private homes of the wealthy (1 percenters) which were tiered as three levels of attached homes buried into the side of Bulbul Mountain.  The homes have no windows but instead are built around a center, open, courtyard (called a peristyle).    While the average home in the United States is around 2,500 sf, the largest of these private dwellings is 10,000 square feet.

The walls contain frescos decorated in subject matter selected by the head of the household (as opposed to the choice of the artist) which reveals the values and aesthetics of these families.  Some of the walls contain seven layers of frescos since a new “style” would evolve every couple of generations and the house would be redecorated.

Restoration involves stabilizing the frescos so they don’t fall from the walls, matching in mortar where pieces are missing, cleaning the paint that is exposed and in some cases recreating the missing painting.  In addition, thousands of broken pieces of wall marble and hundreds of thousands small floor mosaic tiles are being sorted and reassembled.

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Dennis Kowal observing the restoration techniques used to preserve this spectacular find during a private visit. More damage was done by the elements after the houses were uncovered than by being buried for a dozen centuries under the earth.  Therefore, a 4000 s.m. weather-protective enclosure has been installed over the entire site and glass floored catwalks navigate around the six homes.
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A great view of the peristyle and the vaulted “Reception Room” that the family would use to greet their guests.  The floors were covered in mosaics and marble and the task of matching the broken fragments is underway.
The multiple layers of painted frecos can be observed in the lower
right corner of this photo.  The restoration approach is to leave this legacy of ownership and decoration.  The Romans were no different from today’s homeowners who redecorated by covering the former occupants tastes.  At the back wall are the heads of two philosophers with many holes in the surface.
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Detail of the philosopher fresco with his name still written above.  The fact that philosophers and gods adorned the homes reveals what was important to the family just as a poster of a famous rock star in a bedroom or a wall of family photos would today.
The first floor contained the family rooms for relaxing, eating and entertaining.  None of the rooms had windows except for the borrowed light coming in from the courtyard.  Entry was from a wide staircase that climbed the mountain alongside the attached homes.
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Mosaics of Dionysius and Ariadne show the incredible skill of the artists and wealth of the owners.  Money flowed to Ephesus because it acted as a central banking system for the greater Mediterranean region.
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Family rooms surround the peristyle of this home with bedrooms located on the second level. Clay pipes carried heat under the floors and to the bathrooms just like the Roman baths. While we are used to seeing the palaces of the ruling class, this is a rare glimpse into the lifestyle of wealthy citizens in early times.
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Posted June 13, 2012 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation

HISTORIC PRESERVATION Parthenon Restoration   1 comment

HISTORIC PRESERVATION Parthenon Restoration

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It took less than ten years to build the Parthenon but restoration is taking 37 years and counting.

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The Parthenon was built of marble in 447 BC and acted as a treasury building for the Aegean League of City States.  The word Parthenon means “virgin”  but originally it was just called “The Temple” or the “100 foot house”.   A statue of the goddess Athena  occupied  the center of the Temple and was carved by the same famous sculptor who designed the Parthenon itself,   Pheidias.

Every architect studies the Parthenon as an example of the perfection of proportion.  But it is the nuances of every inch of the design that creates this proportion.  All of the columns lean slightly to an imaginary point in the sky, end columns are spaced closer to each other,  column shafts bulge slightly at the middle almost to emphasize the load, and the faces of the Parthenon fit into “the golden rectangle”.

Thus, despite rows of seemingly identical columns, no two parts are interchangeable anywhere in the structure.  Restoration crews  must keep track of the  70,000 separate original pieces that have fractured a hundred times over because each piece only fits correctly in one place.  A bad restoration in 1898 by Greek architect, Nikolas Balanos used untreated iron clamps to secure the failing structure which then expanded as they rusted;  fragmenting the marble.  Even the original architects of the Parthenon, Iktinos and Kallikrates, knew to coat the original iron pins and clamps with lead.  Today restoration architects are using titanium pins.

The temple was attacked by the Venetians when under Ottaman rule and they triggered the ammunitions hidden inside causing major destruction.  Bits and pieces of the Parthenon have recently been discovered in the fortress walls of the acropolis that were erected in the 1800’s.  These bits are being identified, removed and mapped into the existing structure by a computer identification program (like a technological jig-saw puzzle program).

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Permanently missing pieces are painstakingly reproduced in marble and reinserted as can be seen from the whiter Marble above.
 
 
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Restoration crews chipping off poor repairs.
 
 
 
 
 
Earlier restorations put pieces in the wrong location.  These pieces are removed, stored and placed correctly when the time comes.
 
 
 

The triangular pediment frieze contained sculptures that fit neatly within. Behind is the massive counterweight for the crane which folds in half and tucks away when not in use.

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Restoration of the Parthenon has been difficult because the earlier restoration mistakenly placed some of the fragments into the wrong locations.  Removal and relocation was not that simple since the remaining structure has weakened and not able to survive the surgery without the invention and approval of some new bonding agents.  New methods for carving the flutes into the replacement column pieces and other carvings has helped to quicken the current pace.  The computer has been a great aid in matching pieces but still the human eye is often the final judge.   The Acropolis has a series of tents for carving the marble and a full time crew of restoration technicians who raise and lower the pieces.

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 The 18th c. fortress borrowed broken fragments from the Parthenon to build the massive 65’ tall walls. Restoration architects floated tethered weather balloons and cameras to record the surface of the wall to find the Parthenon fragments.
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Earthquakes are a reoccurring problem for
the Parthenon.  The original architects knew
to place lead sheets between the drums that
compose the columns to absorb some of the shock.
 
 
 

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I sketched my first in-person view of the Parthenon.  The top of the famous temple was peeking above the walls of the acropolis  (as viewed across the stone 5000 seat theatre of Atticus).

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The Declaration of Independence was brought here but so was a Crèche.   Leave a comment

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The Declaration of Independence was brought here but so was a Crèche.

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fisherhouse

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The later period walnut and oak wooden interior paneling and decorative carvings have been described by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office as the best existing examples of the Art Nouveau Style (1880-1914) in the State of New Jersey.

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Hendrick Fisher House is the oldest structure in Somerset County with the original construction dating back to 1688.  Dennis Kowal Architects provided preservation documents for this fine house that is decorated for Christmas each year.  As the New Jersey representative to the Continental Congress, Fisher brought back a signed copy of the Declaration of Independence to this very house (near Bound Brook) the day after the famous signing.

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Hendrick Fisher was one of four men so hated by the British, that he was excluded from an offer of pardon to patriots who surrendered.  The British ransacked this farmstead during the Revolutionary War.   Hendrick went on to be the first President of Rutgers College (Queens College).

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The Fisher House is owned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and is open by appointment for Christmas viewing.
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Posted December 21, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation

A Train Station Harry Potter would love!   Leave a comment

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A Train Station Harry Potter would love!

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The historic Bound Brook eastbound train station is about to be restored by DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS.   Open web trusses that support an old-style corrugated metal roof that spans the platform and a brick and tile waiting room will be saved from further deterioration and restored to their original splendor.

Preservation plans by DKA were approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, New Jersey Transit, and the Department of Transportation and construction will begin this winter.  The Central Jersey Railroad began in 1830 and eventually extended from Scranton to the Jersey City Terminal with Ferry Crossing to New York City.  Hundreds of commuters still use the New Jersey Transit Line each day.  Old documents report that the important Bound Brook Station accommodated 1,700 passengers per day and over 100,000 tons of freight each year at its peak.  When the line was extended across the Delaware River in 1856 to connect to the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company a third rail was added to adjust for the two different gauges of track used by the DL&W line (broad gauge) and the CNJ (standard gauge).

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS provided materials analysis to match brick, mortar, interior tiles and terracotta.  Their design will restore the platform and eastbound waiting room to its original condition.   Planning is complicated by the fact that trains will pass within inches of the renovation during construction.

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Posted November 14, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation

First New Jersey Library to receive historic makeover in Hoboken   2 comments

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First New Jersey Library to receive historic makeover in Hoboken

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New built-in bookshelves, display cases and a terrazzo floor reminiscent of the upstairs detailing shall be created at the base of this existing staircase

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The 115 year old Hoboken Library, the first New Jersey Library constructed under the 1894 General Library Act, will receive a $1.5 million makeover.  In the first phase of a series of planned improvements, DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS will stabilize the exterior and give life to the virtually abandoned lower level.   Plagued by flooding and decay, the lowest level will undergo a rigorous set of upgrades to once again become a public space including a program room and art gallery.  In addition, some of the area ways will be reinvented to provide an outdoor café and garden space.  Inside, the Friends of the Library will be given a fresh and safe place to sell donated books in a new bookstore and staff will gain a much needed staff room and storage space.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS also prepared the grant application documents to obtain the $1.5 million New Jersey Historic Trust matched grant.  The design received both the approval of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office and the New Jersey Historic Trust.

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New acoustical panel bulletin boards which are a reminder of the slate blackboards that once hung on the walls of this basement lecture hall contribute to the atmosphere and sound of this newly created Program Room. An areaway, once used for trash receptacles, will be enlarged and redesigned as an outdoor café for reading used books.
The significant history of the Hoboken Library included a design competition. Dennis J. Kowal AIA unveils the new plans at a public presentation in the Main Reading Room of the Library last Thursday.The significant history of the Hoboken Library included a design competition.
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Posted November 1, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation, Library

Earthquake Analysis   Leave a comment

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Earthquake Analysis

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Preservation Architect Dennis Kowal had just surveyed the Hoboken Library exterior (with the help of the Hoboken Fire Department Ladder Truck) prior to the earthquake creating a great baseline for comparison.

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At approximately 2pm EST on August 23rd 2011, the shock wave of a  5.9 earthquake centered 40 miles north of Richmond, Virginia reached the New York City area causing a slight movement to the ground which affected different buildings and different geological formations in varying ways.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS was immediately deployed to the historic Hoboken Public Library to examine the structure for safe occupancy and stabilization recommendations, if required.  The public and staff experienced a severe shaking of the building for forty five seconds and books fell off shelves, paint chips came off ceilings, windows rattled loud enough to break, and chandeliers swayed.

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It was feared that these decorative five foot tall urns at the top of the three story Hoboken Library were shaken loose. Remarkably, these showed no new signs of fracture. A vertical crack in an adjacent building may have resulted from movement of the structures. Vertical cracks and reports of falling plaster just inside this same area were reported by the staff of the Library.
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There were four areas of concern.

  1. The free-standing decorative urns seen surrounding the dome may have come  loose (they didn’t)

  2. The cracks in the plaster walls may have signified a dangerous structural shift (they didn’t)

  3. The observed loose lighting fixture was indicative of a pervasive condition (it wasn’t ). and

  4. The previously noted cracks in the terracotta exterior may have deepened or reduced the attachment integrity (they didn’t)

The Hoboken Library is under restoration by DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS.  The firm helped obtain a $1.5 million grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust.

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A light fixture broke loose during the quake and separated from the original tin ceiling. In years prior, some terracotta cornice pieces disengaged and it was feared that more of the building may have rattled loose.
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The Hoboken library was the first library built in New Jersey under the 1894 General Library Act. The Italian Renaissance-style Library has served the community in the same building for 114 years.

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Posted October 21, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation

Earthquakes, Floods, and Wind Storms   1 comment

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Earthquakes, Floods, and Wind Storms

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caption under image Every truss was compromised in some way. Shear fractures above resulted from the roof weighing down, pushing out the bearing walls and literally pulling these bottom chords apart.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS  have been busy making house calls after a string of disasters.  It began in January when wind and snow loads contributed to the near collapse of the sanctuary roof at the Glen Rock Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.   Dennis Kowal was asked his opinion about some hairline cracks in the plaster ceiling that had been developing over the years in a building designed by others.  After a trip through the attic truss structure,  Dennis asked everyone to leave the building because the roof structure was completely compromised.  What did he find?   Every one of the wooden roof trusses was split or fractured leaving very little holding up the gabled roof and heavy plaster ceiling which perched over the 200 worshippers.  “Either under-design or overloading caused the roof structure to fail.  This was a frightening find.  I wasn’t even sure the structure would hold me walking across it. Never was there a clearer condition for immanent danger to the occupants.  God protected everyone … this could have been catastrophic.”    Fortunately, a truss repair contractor was a member of the congregation and the church was closed for nine months while new steel trusses were slipped between the failed existing wood trusses.   The stabilized sanctuary will reopen 23 October.

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Extensive shoring and scaffolding was necessary to make the repairs without completely removing the roof.
The beautiful curved plaster ceiling of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was suspended from wooden trusses that had no remaining structural integrity.

The pastor and members of the building committee were briefed as to how the scissor trusses were failing.

 

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Posted October 12, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation