They are replacing / renovating pieces of the terracotta facade ...
They are replacing / renovating pieces of the terracotta facade ...
^ How will they make it match? Terra-cotta on Woolworth gets its whitish shade not from paint but from a glazed finish, like pottery. Doesn't that need to be factory-applied before the piece is even shipped?
Not sure, but I think those dark areas are where the outer skin has been removed.
Only the crown , which is not copper, is painted.
Facade Maintenance Design, PC
233 Broadway - WOOLWORTH BUILDING
The Witkoff Group (Owner)
New York City
Since 1987, FMD professionals have been responsible for exterior condition surveys as well as the identification and analysis of all conditions affecting deterioration of this famous New York landmark. Such surveys have been undertaken from the ground, from the roofs, and from various scaffolding, and have led to the preparation of necessary construction documents for all on-going restoration work.
Throughout this period, the FMD Team has coordinated all bidding and filing processes, site meetings with owners and contractors, and has performed periodic visits to the site throughout the construction phases. FMD Team professionals have handled necessary replacement of original deteriorated terra cotta cladding and ornament with new cast concrete and GFRC panels to match as closely as possible the original building appearance.
Restoration has included stabilization pinning of original terra cotta cladding, in place whereverpossible, re-setting of original terra cotta stones, re-pointing of mortar joints, patching of original terra cotta glaze material and repair and replacement of corroded structural steel as required, in addition to the repair and replacement of copper and bituminous roofing wherever necessary. FMD also designed unique flashing and anchorage details and restored missing ornamentation and color schemes.
Unique Historic Structure:
A Local and National landmark structure, The Woolworth Building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert and was the tallest building in the world at the time of its completion in 1913. FMD has been the professional of record for all exterior work since 1987, including continuous, on-going restoration and preservation assignments.
© 2005 FMD All Rights Reserved
If I heard right, the WWB i one of teh early ones that used Terra Cottia with steel. I forget whether it was teh steel meshing for formwork, or the steel of the building (I just remember "steel" being mentioned).
The basic nature of the terra cotta does not interact well with steel, causing corrosion. I believe the biggest problem was with things like anchor points. When these needed to be replaced, they used concrete, which they matched in color.
But the only problem with concrete is its porosity. When it rains, it soaks up a bit of water and changes color. All those dark spots? That's concrete patchwork.
I do not hav ethe solid information on this, so you may want to look it up to verify/tighten up my explanation. I am only offering what I have heard from word-of-mouth in the biz....
Dark Spots Mar an Aging, Yet Exquisite, Face
Tina Fineberg for The New York Times
It Didn't Age Well The splotchy look of the Woolworth Building, at Broadway and Park Place, comes
from the dirt absorbed by precast concrete blocks that replaced the original terra cotta in the 1970s.
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
September 9, 2007
Streetscapes | Woolworth Building
It's like a fungus that runs up and down the tower of the Woolworth Building, at Broadway and Park Place. From every angle the cream-colored surface has dirty, discolored patches, the unanticipated consequences of a major restoration project three decades ago.
Frank Woolworth began accumulating his 5-and-10-cent store fortune in 1879, and by 1886 he opened a headquarters in New York City. He was a multimillionaire by 1900, when he built a lacy Gothic-style limestone house at Fifth Avenue and 80th Street, a building demolished in the 1920s.
It was designed by Charles P. H. Gilbert, a mansion specialist who worked up and down the avenue. He also designed the main building of the Jewish Museum, at 92nd Street.
In 1911, Woolworth announced plans for the tallest building in the world, to be constructed on Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street. Like his house, Woolworth’s new building was to be neo-Gothic and designed by a Gilbert — in this case, Cass Gilbert, who was not related to Charles but was instead an aggressive out-of-towner who had elbowed his way into New York City architecture.
In 1905, Gilbert had designed the boxy Gothic-style West Street Building, at West and Cedar Streets, one of many structures to use the new technology of glazed terra cotta to clad a tall building, and the architect used it as a model for the Woolworth Building.
For Woolworth, Gilbert doubled the size of the 23-story West Street building and then some, to 55 floors, with a pyramidal roof 792 feet high. That topped the 700-foot Metropolitan Life tower, built at Madison Avenue and 24th Street in 1909.
Paul Starrett was one of the contractors bidding on the Woolworth project, and in his 1938 book, “Changing the Skyline,” he recalled trying to persuade Woolworth to use more traditional materials.
“In stone it would be magnificent,” he said, but in terra cotta, “it would look like a 5-and-10-cent store proposition.”
He did not get the job.
The utility of terra cotta was irrefutable: each block of fired clay, usually hollowed out, was a fraction of the weight of brick or stone. The blocks were easily modeled in intricate forms and were protected by a glaze that shed dirt.
A 1912 ad by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in The Real Estate Record and Guide boasted, “Cream color in another material would be dark and dirty after a few years’ exposure.”
Unlike many prior skyscrapers, the Woolworth Building was well received by the architectural intelligentsia. It had no raw blank side walls, and the Gothic-style detailing seemed an honest reflection of the new steel-frame technology.
The Architectural Record, 1913
Office for Metropolitan History
Writing in The Architectural Record in 1913, Montgomery Schuyler particularly admired the way Gilbert adjusted the scale of the ornament. The finials, shields, crockets and other details were not simply giant-sized to look good from a distance but also held up to close view from neighboring buildings.
Compared with European models, “this brand-new American Gothic loses nothing,” Mr. Schuyler said.
But Mr. Starrett’s misgivings were well founded. In his 1938 book he recalled, apparently from years earlier, “the spectacle of the upper part of the Woolworth Building, wired up with metal mesh to catch the falling terra cotta.”
By 1962, The New York Times reported that riggers were repairing broken pieces all year round.
These problems only grew worse, and in the 1970s the Woolworth company retained Ezra D. Ehrenkrantz & Associates (now Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn) to examine every one of the 400,000 terra-cotta blocks. The architecture firm found that 25,000 of them needed complete replacement and selected precast concrete instead.
The concrete had a surface coating, meant to be renewed every five years, to shed soil and moisture, like the glaze on the terra-cotta blocks.
Timothy Allanbrook, now a senior consultant at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, an architecture and engineering firm in Northbrook, Ill., worked for Ehrenkrantz at the time and was on and off the scaffolds at the Woolworth Building for three years.
He says the prescription for periodic resealing has not been followed, so the porous concrete has been absorbing water and dirt for years. He suspects that the concrete has absorbed so much dirt that it cannot be cleaned sufficiently so that it matches the original terra cotta, which may leave another replacement as the only option.
Mr. Allanbrook said that 30 years ago, the terra-cotta industry was in decline, making concrete “the optimal choice in a narrow field of imperfect choices.”
Now, terra cotta has seen a resurgence, so the original material could be a reasonable replacement, Mr. Allanbrook said; so could newer materials like concrete reinforced with glass fiber.
Roy Suskin, a vice president of the Witkoff Group, the building’s owner, declined to discuss the problem and any plans for remedying it.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Fantastic! I don't think I've ever seen the entire building floodlit before. Usually only the crown is lit. Let's hope this keeps up.
Je voudrais savoir si il est prevu de redonner vie à ce superbe immeuble. Il est dommage qu'il reste comme cela. J'ai trouver des photos de l'interieur de l'immeuble maintenant, c'est triste. Avoir sur le post
I want to know whether there are plans to restore life to this wonderful building. It is a pity that it remains like that. I find pictures of the inside of the building now is sad. Get on the post
Les autres photos sont sur le blog Curbed
Other photographs are on the blog Curbed
It must have just been astounding for NYers to watch this one rise up to nearly 800' from what was, back then, basically a city of low-rise buildings.
The issue with terra cotta was the steel anchors the construction crews used with terra cotta cladding to tie the blocks into the brickwork better. I'm not convinced these straps of steel were necessary as I have seen them used on occasion in tenements, especially on keystones.
They used a flat piece of steel maybe an inch wide by 1/8 inch thick or a little more about 8" long and bent an inch of one end down 90 degrees and an inch of the other end up 90 degrees, the down end slipped into a hole made in the keystone's top, and the up end slipped behind the first course of brick behind the keystone.
I suspect it was mostly to anchor the top heavy keystones in DURING construction while the wall was going up and the mortar not hard, because there was no way for the keystone to just fall forward when the wall was above it.
That steel rusts and swells and then cracks brick and terra cotta, ditto for rebar used inside balustrades to anchor them into the rail above and the base below, the hollow balustrades were usually filled with mortar and that rebar making them solid, the rod rusts and expands and cracks the balustrade usually in half vertically.
None of this is the fault of terra cotta!
All of the terra cotta was high fired stoneware, fired to high temperature in a kiln and vitrified to an extent it's porosity is extremely low. After around 1905 glazes became popular, and these are the same kinds of glazes applied to your dinner plates- completely waterproof and glass-like.
Some poorly made units that the glaze formula didn't fit well tended to craze due to expansion differences, the tiny cracks in the glaze could let some water in but not likely, and the terracotta itself is vitrified as mentioned.
So most of the water comes in from bad mortar joints, cracks from settling, and especially thru the top of the facade wall if the parapet overhanging cornice is gone or leaking- a lot of them are gone, most were sheet metal and older ones from the 1870's were WOOD, newer ones were often terra cotta and one fault was the joint between cornice blocks, They either overlapped one raised edge over the adjacent block, or bocks had raised edges where the mortar was to shed the water off that joint.
As the raised joint if cracked or the mortar loose is horizontal, rainwater can soak right in, freeze and crack the walls. As the cracks begin from freezing, they get wider and wider each time water in there freezes.
The problem with GFRC panels is they are not terra cotta, so they will NOT look the same and will change in color like those patches did. The only real repair is replacing the damaged terra cotta with new units like they did on 90 West.
The problem with this is, clay shrinks considerably- up to 10%, so simply making a mold of existing cornices and ornaments doesn't work well because any casts made from those molds will wind up 6-10% smaller, leaving large gaps that have to be filled.
So the effective solution there is making new patterns from photos much as I do, and making them 6-10% larger to compensate for the shrinkage.
Any sculptor can make replacement units, but the sheer number of them, say 25,000 is daunting to say the least!
Also, these original units were made in factories on an assembly line type production, and these companies had several HUGE beehive shaped kilns usually around 35 or more feet in diameter made of brick, and big enough to hold tens of thousands of pounds of greenware.
The earlier ones in the 1880's etc were wood or coal fired, later ones were gas fired. Once the kiln was full, the doorway was bricked shut and the fires started, it took one week on a low fire followed by one week of stoneware temperature to soak all of the greenware completely through to the centers, and then a week of cool down.
The temperature had to be maintained 24/7 within a narrow range around cone 8, which would be around 2100 degrees.
Glazed units had to be removed when cool, glazes applied and the fired a second time to a lower temperature and shorter duration.
The unique specific clay and glaze formulas used for the Woolworth building's terra cotta could be difficult to replicate, most of the clay used in NYC for this stuff seemed to have come from New Jersey, it may not even be available any more. Staten Island's clay was found to be very inferior and was not used despite being right nearby in a terra cotta company's "back yard".