Context - Winter 2015 - (Page 24)

©eSto/Jeff goldBerg REHAbIlITATIng RICHARDs Project team owner: trustees of the university of Pennsylvania owner rePresentatives: facilities and real estate Services, Perelman School of Medicine architect, towers c and d, Phase 1: eyP architecture & engineering architect, towers c and d, Phase 2: atkin olshin Schade architects construction manager: intech construction under construction, ca. 1960 24 WINTER 2016 | context | AIA Philadelphia In 2012, the repair and stabilization of one of the majestic brick walls of Louis Kahn's Richards Medical Research Laboratories Building was one of the many projects in the construction frenzy that characterizes summer at the University of Pennsylvania. We were addressing serious bulges and visibly growing misalignments, at the root of which was the usual litany of afflictions of mid-century reinforced concrete: poorly placed reinforcing rods, twisted and rusted relieving angles, and, especially, inadequate and even absent expansion joints. We had instructed the contractors to carefully remove and retain the bricks from the repair locations, and to chip off the mortar from each to allow their reuse. (Kahn's specified bricks - Sayre and Fisher, shade #7672 - which he used throughout his career, are no longer available, and their color and size are difficult if not impossible to duplicate.) All standard practice for us, although with particularly high stakes given the importance of the building. Mid-project, I got an exasperated call from a wonderful colleague, one in a position of considerable academic and institutional authority, who asked, in essence: "Why bother? Wouldn't it be cheaper and faster to use any brick you can get?" I should add that this caller, earlier in his distinguished career, had performed research in a Richards lab, and he had essentially zero affection or respect for it as a functional science building, let alone as a work of architecture. I inhaled sharply. And then I cautiously responded: One, we'd try to match the materials when repairing any building. Two, we were fortunate to have a small stash of replacement bricks, a perfect match salvaged from another building, which meant that the labor of chipping mortar would be far less than he might imagine. Three, Richards was, since 2009, a National Historic Landmark, a designation of supreme importance. Okay, the caller said. I exhaled. The contractor continued to chip off mortar. This anecdote captures the two major difficulties associated with the preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of mid-century modern buildings: daunting technical challenges, and - there's no other way to say it - lack of sympathy, if not outright hostility. I should be clear that, as an institution, despite undeniable and probably inevitable pockets of disaffection, ©eSto/Jeff goldBerg BY DAVID HOLLENBERG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Winter 2015

Editor’s Letter
Up Close
Philadelphia’s Everyday Modernism
Truly and Unobtrusively Modern: Chestnut Hill Architecture of the Twentieth Century
Rehabilitating Richards
2015 Design Awards
Index to Advertisers

Context - Winter 2015