Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over
Reclaiming an Abandoned Church for Reuse as an Events Center, Art Gallery and Record Label Offices: Confronting the Reality that They Didn't Always Build 'em so Well.
Wednesday, September 26
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: HYATT-Grand B
One night in 1995, several large Medina Sandstone units fell off the North Tower of the Delaware Asbury Church, crashed into the Nave roof and tumbled into the adjacent street. It appeared the final death throes of an abandoned local landmark had begun. The original congregation left in the early 1980s as their membership declined. The building was 120 years old. It had thick stone walls, stone buttresses countering heavy timber roof trusses and two landmark towers; its massive scale and quality materials should have ensured centuries of low maintenance use. Except it didn't work out like that. The threat to demolish the building had never loomed larger.
There were hints of trouble before the stones fell out. The choir window bowed in the prevailing winds. The North Tower belfry wanted to bow out the masonry piers framing the louvers. Large sections of the soft Pennsylvania slate roof had failed. Smaller veneer stones fell out of the west elevation but hadn't landed in the sidewalk or the street.
But once those big tower stones hit the street, the City had to act. Pleading poverty and no obvious use, City Hall condemned the building and began snail-paced plans to raze it.
Recording artist Ani DeFranco and her manager, Scot Fisher saw the danger of Buffalo losing another chunk of its 19th Century legacy. They thought they could make the building work as a "Rock Palace" and a new location for Ani's independent record label. They asked Flynn Battaglia Architects to assemble a team of preservation professionals to accomplish that.
Our presentation will examine conditions found on the building including towers that had been built without full courses of bedding mortar and anchorage; decorative buttresses that were simply stacked against exterior walls; composite masonry that lacked any keying; timber trusses that were not trusses at all but functioned merely because of their size and main floor joists that were mortised and tenoned, significantly reducing their bearing capacity - not good for an active concert venue.
It will also examine how the discovery and the solutions the team (FBA, Vertical Access, Silman and others) developed to address these unexpected problems were implemented. Discovery included use of industrial roped access to get to the tops of the two towers, personnel lifts to access walls and roofs and selective probing, dismantlement and testing of the building materials. Specific site constraints included unstable masonry, dealing with winds off Lake Erie and completing the survey during a very cold (!) Buffalo winter. Solutions required sensitive structural and architectural interventions to resolve flawed original design and construction methods without compromising the building's Gothic Revival character. The resulting restored building has become a model preservation success story in Buffalo.
- Upon completion, participants will be able to identify the main components of an architectural and structural survey program--to assess the condition of remote/ difficult to access portions of a building.
- Upon completion, participants will be able to understand the process whereby design professionals identify urgent conditions that need to be addressed (as part of a conditions survey).
- Upon completion, participants will have heard about the most significant types of deterioration associated with load-bearing masonry structures.
- Upon completion, participants will be able to name some of the principal causes of deterioration of load-bearing masonry structures.