Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change

General Abstract

The Art Deco Terrazzo Fountain at Cincinnati Union Terminal

Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101BG

Cincinnati Union Terminal, a 500,000 square-foot Art Deco railroad terminal designed by the New York architectural firm Fellheimer and Wagner, was completed in 1933. A character defining feature of the design was the 8,000 square-foot cascading fountain constructed on the arrival plaza fronting the station.

As originally designed and constructed, the fountain rested on a structural slab above unfinished utilitarian space. A lead liner, or pan, separated the fountain from the building. The concrete basin of the fountain, including the floor, sides and cascades, was finished with terrazzo. This construction assembly allowed the terrazzo and concrete construction to absorb water. The lead lining contained the water, but no provision appears to have been made for draining the water away. This made the original fountain design susceptible to freeze-thaw deterioration: water saturated the concrete above the lead pan, and the trapped water cracked the concrete when it froze during the winter. This mechanism thwarted later attempts to waterproof the fountain from above. The constantly developing cracks in the concrete telegraphed through later repairs and applied waterproofing membranes, allowing water infiltration to continue.

This destructive cycle was subsequently confirmed through an evaluation of concrete cores. The only viable long-term solution for rehabilitation was a complete reconstruction of the fountain.

The reconstruction of the fountain was constrained by the need to exclude all water from the current museum space beneath the fountain, and by the need to satisfy the historic preservation requirements of the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service with regard to historical accuracy.

John G. Waite Associates, Architects (JGWA) developed a design for the reconstruction of the fountain as part of the current rehabilitation of the terminal. The fountain construction was removed and reconstructed above a new waterproofing system developed for the structural slab. As designed by JGWA, the new fountain replicates the existing concrete construction and re-uses the original limestone trim. A new rustic terrazzo finish, replicating the appearance of the original terrazzo, lines the basin and cascading pools.

A modern waterproofing system utilizing a two-component polyurea coating has been applied to the fountain concrete, and a traditional cementitious terrazzo finish has been applied to the inner surfaces of the fountain basin. The original limestone trim has been reset at the perimeter walls of the fountain and on the fin walls between the cascading pools. After preliminary design review meetings and physical mock-ups with waterproofing, pool plaster and terrazzo finish contractors, a composite system utilizing a traditional terrazzo finish and a modern polyurea membrane was chosen as a viable fountain finish and containment system.

Learning Objectives:

Clay Palazzo

John G Waite & Associates, Architects PLLC

Clay S. Palazzo, AIA, LEED AP is a Principal with John G. Waite Associates, Architects. He has been with the firm and its predecessor firm for nearly thirty years. Clay has managed some of the firm's most prestigious commissions including the renovation and restoration of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda at the University of Virginia, the restoration of the African Meeting House in Boston, the restoration of Ralph Adams Cram's All Saints Ashmont in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and the stabilization and re-erection of Yin Yu Tang, a late eighteenth century Chinese merchant's house, at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Clay is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia University.


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Matthew K. Scheidt, AIA, LEED AP

Associate / Project Manager
John G. Waite Associates, Architects

Matt has been the Project Manager for some of JGWA Architects most significant projects including the renovation and restoration of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda at the University of Virginia, the exterior restoration of Frederick Vanderbilt's Gilded Age mansion on the Hudson River, and the renovation and restoration of the 1906 Music Shed at the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Estate in Norfolk, Connecticut for the Yale University School of Music. Matt is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.


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Chris Gembinski

Building Conservation Associates, Inc.


Chris is the Director of Technical Services for Building Conservation Associates, Inc., providing quality control and technical oversight for all BCA projects. Through his investigative work on hundreds of historic properties, he has developed extensive expertise in historic construction techniques and building systems, architectural materials, preservation design solutions, and construction management. Various aspects of his research and design have included masonry restoration, plaster restoration, historic finishes analysis, wood and metal window restoration design and stained-glass restoration. His work includes the design and management of conservation and preservation construction for: The Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, Grand Central Terminal, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Central Park Police Precinct, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, and Trinity Chrch, Wall Street, as well as development ventures such as the Victoria Theater and Moynihan Station Redevelopments.


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Lorraine Schnabel

Schnabel Conservation LLC

Lorraine Schnabel is the principal and owner of Schnabel Conservation LLC, a full service materials conservation consulting firm. We work with preservation project teams to diagnose whole building and individual material deterioration problems and identify workable, practical, durable solutions. After nearly thirty years in practice as both a private conservator and as a project manager at John Milner Associates and 1:1:6 Technologies, Lorraine has developed experience with most types of building materials and historic construction systems. Her principle areas of expertise are masonry and materials analysis. She has applied her skills in the preservation of a broad range of building ages and types, from small historic houses to the Baltimore Washington Monument. Currently, she is co-chair of the APT Technical Committee for Materials, and she has served on the board of the Delaware Valley chapter of APT as well. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic works, and served in leadership roles in the Architecture Specialty Group and Conservators in Private Practice of that organization. She teaches Building Conservation to students in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Jefferson (formerly Philadelphia) University. Lorraine holds a BA in Geology from Pomona College and an MSc. in Historic Preservation from Columbia University.


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The Art Deco Terrazzo Fountain at Cincinnati Union Terminal

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