Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change
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.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to understand the challenges of combining traditional construction with modern materials.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to describe a process that utilizes alternative strategies and uses traditional materials in a non-traditional way.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to imaginatively re-purpose materials from other industries.
- Upon completion, participant will be able to define ways to interact with sub-contractors.