Construction Update: Shepard Hall TSRU Models



Fabrication has begun of the models needed for the production molds for the thin-shell replicas that will replace the deteriorated terra cotta. Together with the previous nine phases, more than 60,000 pieces have been replaced making this by far the largest historic reconstruction of its kind in the world.

The thin-shell approach was developed in 1986-87 by Elemental (then The Stein Partnership) as a means to rebuild the failing structure on an accelerated schedule and still allow for a cladding that accurately reflected the original material.

At the project outset, more than one third of the original terra cotta had already failed and been removed to protect the public safety. As a result, many of the sculptural elements required either partial restoration or total recreation based on the surviving fragments and old photographs. Here, from the first phase (1986-1991) are original grotesques with missing heads, replicas awaiting installation and the rebuilt turrets with the new thin-shell cladding.



This process continues today. Because the contemporary manufacturing processes offer a much higher level of precision than did the original, care is taken to introduce the imperfections that are characteristic of the terra cotta. These include tooling marks, irregularities on flat planes and slight variations in the characteristic “white” color from piece to piece. Depending on the level of deterioration of the original terra cotta, the process of obtaining models can vary from the direct use of terra cotta originals as new molds, to partial reconstruction of damaged terra cotta and fabrication of complete recreations based on historic photographs and interpolations from other similar pieces on the building.

Here, models have been fabricated based on typical profiles found throughout the building


In other cases, terra cotta that had suffered minimal damage serves as models, such as these florettes


This unique grotesque from the building, missing pieces of his nose and and fingers, was carefully removed from the building


and restored to serve as a model for the new GFRC replacement.


When the models are finished, rubber-lined production molds will be created. The thin shell replacement units (TSRU) are then fabricated using a sprayed glass fiber reinforced cementitious system, about three quarters of an inch thick. The description of the process will continue as the project progresses.

Stay tuned for continued updates from the field.

Carl Stein to Speak at AIANY Symposium



Carl Stein, FAIA will speak as part of the “Modernism by Choice: The Economy, Politics, and Sustainability of Preservation” symposium this Saturday at AIANY Center for Architecture. The symposium is in conjunction with the World Monuments Fund’s “Modernism at Risk” exhibition on view at the Center through May 1, 2010. See here for more information on the exhibit.

Panel 1: Advocacy for Vacant Structures:
Case Study 1: Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, IL
Speaker: Graham Balkany, Director, Gropius in Chicago Coalition
Case Study 2: Miami Marine Stadium, Miami, FL
Speaker: Jorge Hernandez, Architect, Co-Founder, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium
Case Study 3: Bell Labs, Holmdel, NJ
Speaker: Michael Calafati, AIA, Principal, Historic Building Architects, LLC, Trenton, and Chair, AIA-NJ Historic Resources Committee
Moderator: Theo Prudon, DOCOMOMO US
Respondent: Frank Sanchis, Senior Vice-President, Municipal Art Society

Panel 2: Sustaining Operations in a Modern Building:
Case Study 1: Taliesin, Spring Green, WI
Speaker: Victor Sidy, AIA, Dean, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Case Study 2: Central Branch, Atlanta Fulton Public Library, Atlanta, GA
Speaker: John Szabo, Director, Central Branch, Atlanta Fulton Public Library
Moderator: Lisa Ackerman, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, World Monuments Fund
Respondent: Carl Stein, FAIA, Elemental Architecture, LLC; formerly of Marcel Breuer and Associates

Organized by: the Center for Architecture in collaboration with the World Monuments Fund, DOCOMOMO US, and World Monuments Fund, DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State.

Free for Members
$5 suggested donation for students

FDNY Rescue 1 in The Architect’s Newspaper



Aaron Seward of the ‘Architect’s Newspaper’ discusses our design of Rescue Company 1 as the first among a new generation of firehouses for elite FDNY companies.  Read the post here.

Construction Update: Shepard Hall Entry Ramp & Facade Work



Entry Ramp Takes Shape:
Central to the entry redesign is the reconstruction of the original ground floor entrance. In addition to the salvaged schist stone wall, concrete retaining walls form the stair opening leading down to the original lower level stone arch entry.  Earth and gravel fill are compacted to serve as a supporting base for the new concrete stair slab.

Facade Reconstruction Underway:
Scaffolding has been erected and selective demolition and removals have begun on the main building. The first step of the facade reconstruction is the selective removal of existing terra cotta sculpture to serve as models for new Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) replicas.



A rigorously tested thin-shell GFRC, strong, light weight and durable, has been the material for all the terra cotta reconstruction. The entire reconstruction, totaling over 65,000 pieces, is currently the largest GFRC reconstruction project in the world.

Following careful removal of the representative sculptural pieces, demolition of the remaining terra cotta will begin.
Steel lintel Investigation:
Meanwhile, the demolition of the existing terra cotta window surrounds exposes the original steel lintels that support the window openings. Each steel lintel is inspected to determine its structural viability. Where possible, salvaging the original steel is preferred.


Schist Stone Sounding:
Local Manhattan Schist stone is the primary façade material of Shepard Hall as well as the other campus buildings originally designed by George Post.  Through a process called “sounding,” each stone on the building is struck with a mallet and the sound produced is an indicator of the stone’s integrity.  Stones that sound “hollow” or are visibly damaged or deteriorated are marked by the design team for replacement.

Stay tuned for continued updates from the field.

Carl Stein – Renewable Energy World North America: “Renewable but Finite”


Renewable Energy

Carl Stein’s article in Renewable Energy World North America ‘Defining Renewable’ segment is available in print and for download now. As Carl concludes: “With remarkable shortsightedness, we have come to believe that the petroleum-era paradigm which was made possible by the availability of plentiful, cheap energy represents the natural order. In fact, it is not sustainable and is tending toward catastrophic results. The shift to renewable energies as our primary resources will reconnect us to the cultural/ethical continuum of humankind; a new paradigm.”

Read the article here. or download PDF .

Construction Update: Shepard Hall, Concrete Underpinning



As construction continues, efforts to utilize the original schist stone entry ramp wall that was recently unearthed continue to make progress. Concrete underpinning (for an explanation of underpinning, click here) along with new steel reinforcement, will allow the original schist stone wall to be incorporated into the new entry design. Meanwhile, as the entry ramp work continues, Elemental Architecture and the team are preparing to commence full scale reconstruction efforts on portions of the main building itself. Stay tuned for continued updates from the field.

Carl Stein Speaks on Sustainable Future for Stony Brook Southampton



Principal founder of elemental, Carl Stein, FAIA, addressed a gathering of local activists, artists, designers, educators, environmentalists, and planners at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University last Friday, October 9th. The event sparked an effective and engaging dialogue about the sustainable future of the SUNY campus.

In addition to his curation with Marc Fasanella of the visual exhibition held in the Avram Lobby Gallery, Carl addressed the symposium with the following statement on sustainability:

“In order to discuss options for sustainability, one must first decide what is being sustained.  Much of the consideration of global sustainability might actually better be called survivability.  Issues of climate change, food production, availability of clean water and air threaten the continued viability of the human species.

Local efforts toward sustainability will influence the global outlook but are often, appropriately, focused on the impact of actions, whether planned or not, on the special characteristics that are seen to be the essential definers of place.  These characteristics may include cultural, historical and natural aspects.

Increasingly, we are finding that there are resonances between maintenance of place, of genius loci, and global ecological survival.  These result from at least two fundamental conditions.  First, much of what is valued is the result of a long, evolutionary process in which the growth and development of humankind’s habitation of the planet has been informed by interaction with context.  Second, understanding the intrinsic value of what currently exists will produce attitudes which will be far more likely to adapt and reuse rather than demolish and replace – a new paradigm.

A corollary to this new paradigm is that new interventions which are found to be necessary will be more carefully considered and more highly valued.

The forum and exhibition becomes a stepping off point for a program (a) to define those characteristics of eastern Long Island which must be maintained (or which are worthy of maintenance); (b) to identify the ways that maintenance of these characteristics supports ecological sustainability on local, regional and global bases; and (c) to create an action plan to realize specific measure designed to strengthen the characteristics identified in (a).”
– Carl Stein, FAIA

PlaNYC Proposal Calls for Energy Audits of Buildings 50,000 sf or More


According to a NYT article, as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlanNYC, a proposal seeks to employ mandatory energy audits of existing structures of 50,000 square feet or more and requires owners to make certain improvements to make the buildings more energy efficient. James F. Gennaro, chairman of the council’s environmental protection committee and a sponsor of the measures, says “Eighty-five percent of the buildings that we have in 2009 are going to be here in 2030.”

AIA NY Now Exhibit Features Shepard Hall



Last night, the AIA New York help me write my essay Chapter / Center for Architecture took over the West 4th Street subway station for the opening of their New York Now architecture showcase. Elemental Architecture’s historic reconstruction of New York City Landmark Gothic Revival building, Shepard Hall at the City College of New York, is among the work featured in the exhibit.



New York Now includes work of all type and scale – small, large, commercial, residential, public, private, interiors, historic preservation, engineering, landscape and urban design – presenting the scope and quality of projects by Chapter members in New York City today. This high-visibility exhibition offers a snapshot of where we are at this moment and celebrates the diversity of the Chapter’s membership.

The exhibit runs through the end of October. For additional information and online slideshow of work featured, click here.

Invite: Setting the Agenda for a Sustainable Future at Stony Brook Southampton SUNY



Join us for a Conversation with the Community
Friday, October 9th 2009, 7:30pm-9:00pm

Avram Gallery at Stony Brook, Southampton SUNY
Curated by Carl Stein, FAIA & Marc Fasanella
Followed by a reception in the Avram Lobby Gallery introducing the exhibit:
Seeing Southampton Visually Investigating Issues that Affect the Environment of Southampton

As we close the first decade of the 21st Century, we should take stock of how we dwell upon our Earth.  In the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, a group of colleagues are initiating a dialog with Activists, Architects, Artists, Citizens, Designers, Educators, Environmentalists and Planners who shape the township of Southampton.

The future of Stony Brook Southampton is inextricably linked to the fabric of Southampton Township, the East End of Long Island, and the global dialogue on the environment.  On the evening of October 9th we will host a symposium that brings together a diverse group of concerned individuals to canvas their notions of elements essential to the evolution of the town.  Our goal is to provoke, record, define and present a holistic set of interconnected guiding principles for evolving our community in the 21st century.  On December 13th, we will present an interim summation of this discourse.  During the years to come, we will widen our conversation to an international level.

Contribute your thoughts at this public event! Please RSVP to (631) 632-5161

invite (pdf)


From New York City
Take I-495 (Long Island Expressway) east to Exit 70, then turn right on County Road 111: follow the signs to State Route 27 East/Montauk (Sunrise Highway).  Take Route 27 East (which becomes County Road 39) and proceed 19 miles to Southampton Campus.  Make right at the traffic light onto Tuckahoe Road.  Go past the first entrance on Tuckahoe Road.  Turn right at the next entrance.

From the South Shore
Take the Belt Parkway east, keep left to Exit 25A toward Eastern Long Island.  The Belt Parkway becomes Southern State Parkway.  At Exit 40, take Robert Moses Causeway south toward ocean beaches.  Take Exist RMI toward Route 27 East (Sunrise Highway).  Follow directions from Sunrise Highway (above).

For More Information Contact:

Cindy Baggee
(631) 632-5161
Fine Arts Building
239 Montauk Highway
Southampton, NY  11968