Track 3: Conservation of modern and post-modern heritage
During New York City’s 1920’s building boom, Ely Jacques Kahn emerged as a prominent architect with a mark for radical design, forms and colors which defined his architectural style. He was the last of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts architects who would come to characterize modern American Architecture with his signature commercial high-rises across the City. One of his renowned works was the Bricken Casino building also known as 1410 Broadway. The thirty-five storied Bricken Casino with its steep triangular floor plan stands as a fine expression of New York’s setback code with black-brick spandrels highlighting the tower’s verticality. The acute angled setbacks create the illusions of fins rising into the sky.
In 2016, Architectural Preservation Studio (APS) was hired to work on the structure’s exterior envelope as a part of New York City’s Façade Inspection Safety Program. This façade inspection involved an unconventional approach; focusing primarily on all areas which were not inspected nor documented in the prior cycle. This resulted in a survey of areas that were previously beyond reach. What was discovered as a result was a building that had totally given-way to the freeze-thaw cycles of the Northeast. The historic façade with its black and white glazed bricks, its terracotta topped fins and the acute building corners were the worst hit.
The question for the client and the team was how to move forward keeping the historic fabric intact? Can glazed bricks be used again for the repair work? Being on a tight budget, restricted by time and struggling to locate the original bricks with its peculiar angles it almost seemed that the historic integrity of the building would have to be compromised.
Eventually, through extensive research and the client’s cooperation, all the archival records of previous repair work were studied. Ely Jacques’ original drawings were carefully reviewed. The manufacturer of the brick was located and the possibility that the same angled bricks could be rebuilt emerged. Every angle was measured and the custom brick samples were sent to the factories for manufacturing. All the corner cracks were opened up and deteriorated steel from almost eighty year earlier was reinforced and waterproofed.
The technical troubles slowly mounted when demolition hours were restricted from 6 am – 9 am and access to a setbacks curtailed due by irritant tenants. The project moved ahead slowly but surely, learning from probes and from history itself. Finally culminating into a project that lasted two years and that resulted in the re-skinning of almost 40% of the brick façade in an effort to best to preserve the modern jewel of Ely Jacques Kahn.