Reade Street - Capitals   (2016)

with WorkAC

The renovation of this Reade Street building in Tribeca offers the opportunity to reinterpret and restore the column capitals of its cast-iron facade. Much of the information regarding the original column capitals has gone lost. Detailed drawings are not known to exist.

Generative design algorithms allow us to use the remaining information about the form of the capitals - their proportions and key features – as a point of departure for a new capital design. Topographical properties of the remaining forms can be transformed into instructions that describe how to sculpt the surfaces of the form. By iteratively applying this process, the simple form can evolve into an elaborate system of ornament that is at once surprising and novel, yet very much rooted in the past.

The cast-iron facades of the 19th century were an expression of technical skills and knowledge. In restoring the column capitals, the use of generative algorithms thus gives us the opportunity to extend this tradition of engaging technology, while retaining the historical context and ideals.

The molds for the column capitals were 3D printed. Column capitals were then cast in GFRC and iron.

Tribeca's cast-iron buildings were constructed in the second half of the 19th century. New cast-iron technology allowed not only a very short construction ntimes, but enabled large windows and vast open floorplans. The cast-iron façades were adorned with classical French and Italian motifs.

Tribeca and Soho's cast-iron buildings were constructed as factories and warehouses. Many of these were in use until the 1960's, when stricter labor regulations and new zoning forced factories to shut down. Artists moved into the buildings, eventually followed by galleries and retail, leading to a gentrification of the area. While many cast-iron façades have survived completely intact, others have have had significatn parts rust away. Oftentimes, there are no remaining architectural drawings - or even any photographs - of the individual buildings.


Pre-restoration condition of the column capitals