Defying Gravity: The Resurrection of Architectural Terra-Cotta Fragments

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<ul><li><p>Defying Gravity: The Resurrection of Architectural Terra-Cotta FragmentsAuthor(s): Anne CurrierSource: APT Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 1 (1998), pp. 50-52Published by: Association for Preservation Technology International (APT)Stable URL: .Accessed: 18/12/2014 00:04</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to APT Bulletin.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Defying Gravity: The Resurrection of Architectural Terra-Cotta Fragments </p><p>ANNE CURRIER </p><p>Once suspended above our heads, undaunted by forces of gravity and </p><p>the elements, these objects were </p><p>originally integrated into the overall </p><p>designs of architectural facades. </p><p>Isolated from their original environ- </p><p>ments, the fragments reveal individ- </p><p>ual qualities of detail, elegance, humor, simplicity, and physical mas- </p><p>siveness. Undoubtedly the work of </p><p>artists and craftsmen, the power of </p><p>these fragments to trigger and nur- </p><p>ture the imagination remains potent. These objects were first shown </p><p>as part of Defying Gravity: The Frag- mented Facades of Architectural </p><p>Terra Cotta at the International </p><p>Museum of Ceramic Art at Alfred </p><p>University, October 9, 1997, through </p><p>January 22, 1998, and then at the </p><p>Helen Drutt Gallery, 1721 Walnut </p><p>Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from February 4 through 26, 1998. </p><p>?'.."' </p><p>"': </p><p>I . </p><p>? . . .. :: </p><p>V i'ii </p><p>,..w </p><p># a alp, </p><p>ow,, </p><p>r </p><p>.r ?::i:.~t? </p><p>C ~? </p><p>', </p><p>" I~ B el e ~'";' </p><p>. . ,;, </p><p>Fig. 1. The terra-cotta graveyard, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Orchard Park, New York. The objects chosen for Defying Gravity were resurrected from this sea of fragments. Restoration is more easily accomplished when the terra-cotta manufacturer and ceramic engineer have access to original frag- ments from architectural structures. Photograph by Brian Oglesbee. </p><p>50 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>DEFYING GRAVITY 51 </p><p>a </p><p>?F*-1?~cc, ,, ?( `~-~i~LL 'F ~PL;r~l~JL~J***Js~:*?L'.;*~~j'YW""U?~E.* </p><p>.~n~uL </p><p>"IS~"` 'r' </p><p>t ?? P~ </p><p>r??*.?-~~~i;r) .~d 2, J </p><p>~i?~ "*a </p><p>:i </p><p>~~L? </p><p>~i~i~i~i~ "a </p><p>a!;p </p><p>1 </p><p>t~t </p><p>_4f~j~3t ~?*"b J,' ~r~ En </p><p>IE :~t?l~ </p><p>d~i ?f?l ?C?-r?~ ~ rrr*' r*r r 4- </p><p>r </p><p> </p><p>-~F~ C', .? ~7, r-S~L </p><p>'E ") I t .?? i </p><p>~Y~E~, </p><p>~c~i~f9~ . </p><p>,, ~iJ~, ~-?QtY~?~' </p><p>a a.~s~ cC *:'i </p><p>B ~* ~.~Cr :1 </p><p>:... ~c~i~ ?; h:. </p><p>Fig. 2. Original mermaid fragment, Audubon Ballroom, New York City. This is the fragment as it was found in the Boston Valley Terra Cotta graveyard. Prior to its removal, this terra-cotta block was intact except for a few small cracks on the abdomen. Masonry contractors used an air hammer to fracture it for removal. The fragments were sawed, pried out, and, finally, reassembled with epoxy. This close-up reveals periods of the fragment's history: crazes that occurred over time in the glaze, which was discolored by the urban environment; evidence of an </p><p>early.attempt at restoration with cement, </p><p>detectable on the shoulder; and the scars from the saw and dribbles of epoxy. Photograph by Anne Currier. </p><p>?i? ,, .,.): </p><p>? .- ,..,-t - ,;i </p><p>,-~l . </p><p>S </p><p>. -4.-' </p><p>:...; </p><p>.. </p><p>Fig, 3. Original ornamental fragment, Niagara Mohawk Building (formerly General Electric Tower), Buffalo, New York. The deeply sculpted exterior is a dense composition of fruits and flora, whose surface is saturated by an opaque, milky-white satin glaze. The hand of the presser, dragging his or her fingers in the wet clay, is evident on the walls of the interior struc- ture. The distance between floor levels often had a back-up wall made of low-grade bricks and mortar. These bricks were integrated into the "cells" or internal webs of the terra-cotta blocks, functioning as part of the block's overall fastening to the building. This original block offers a good example of its installation and the "cut and wiggle" means of removal. Diamond saws were used to cut all joints around the perimeter of the block. The metal anchors hold- ing the block to the building also had to be cut. By jarring the block up and down with a pry bar, the sheer strength of the back-filled bricks was shattered, along with portions of the internal web, so that the block could be wiggled out. Photograph by Anne Currier. </p><p>ANNE CURRIER was guest curator for the exhibition Defying Gravity: The Fragmented Facades of Architectural Terra Cotta. She is professor of ceramic art and chair, Division of Ceramic Art, New York State College of Ceram- ics at Alfred University, Alfred, New York. </p><p>Acknowledgments </p><p>Special thanks to the owners of Boston Valley Terra Cotta Inc., Orchard Park, New York, for the loan of the architectural fragments and for their technical assistance with this article. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>52 APT BULLETIN </p><p>INN </p><p>uzf. </p><p>a </p><p>q </p><p>.., \gh </p><p>Fig. 4. Original fragment of gargoyle and new, glazed-and-fired gargoyle, City College of New York. Saw marks and breakage to the internal web indicate that this original fragment (top) was removed hastily. However, the figure was sufficiently intact to serve as a basic profile for the new model (bottom). Note the holes in the internal structure of the new gargoyle, which will accommodate the placement and fastening system. Original-gargoyle photograph by Anne Currier; new-model photograph by Brian Oglesbee. </p><p>1 . </p><p>i "-.." </p><p>r- </p><p>\, ,:: </p><p>Fig. 5. Corner section of a gable over an en- trance, City College of New York. Minimal damage occurred when the block was wiggled out with a pry bar. Photograph by Anne Currier. </p><p>i ,s! i </p><p>r?I tS' I i </p><p>;"~. ':'~ </p><p>Fig. 6. Original transitional coping block, City College of New York. This block was part of a vertical rake or gable, "chasing" the outside of the building. Elegant and minimal, the simplic- ity of this fragment is belied by the dynamics between the movement and surface of the exterior shapes and the geometric structure of the interior cells. Photograph by Anne Currier. </p><p>Original Locations of Fragments </p><p>Audubon Ballroom, 1912 3940-60 Broadway, New York, N.Y. Architect: Thomas Lamb </p><p>Boston Valley Terra Cotta 6860 South Abbott Road, Orchard Park, N.Y. </p><p>City College of New York, 1903-08 Convent Avenue, between 138 and 140 streets, New York, N.Y. Designer: George B. Post </p><p>Erasmus Hall High School, begun 1905 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. Architect: C. B. J. Snyder </p><p>A- Airl.. q ,, .... -z" </p><p>.... .... </p><p>.. . . </p><p>l , </p><p>. ----- -- </p><p>Fig. 7. Original glazed cylinder with dogwood blossom, Ritz Theater, Tiffin, Ohio. This frag- ment was sandwiched in a complex sculptural assembly. As the upper blocks were removed, this cylindrical block was easily wiggled out with a pry bar. Photograph by Anne Currier. </p><p>-- -~ .. ~iis31E~C~ </p><p>?~I~" ?e d,-~o Q </p><p>I~ fii~ ~ if -~f~ "k~ ~r~rv </p><p>:::' ::i: "~ </p><p>i'rill :"i.:E </p><p>:.:::: </p><p>?~. I. r+ r~ ??? </p><p>"~t~! </p><p>~2~ ?? </p><p>Fig. 8. Original block with head of a young scholar, Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, New York. Sculpted and covered with a vitre- ous matt glaze to imitate the appearance of stone, this block evokes the vibrancy, sensual- ity, and integrity of its medium-clay-and the artistry and skill of its maker. Photograph by Brian Oglesbee. </p><p>Niagara Mohawk Building, 1912 (formerly General Electric Tower) 535 Washington Street, Buffalo, N.Y. Architects: Esenwein and Johnson Manufacturer: Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, 1897-1943, Perth Amboy, Rocky Hills, New Jersey, and Tottenville, Staten Island, New York </p><p>Ritz Theater, 1928 Tiffin, Ohio Architects: Kirwin and Ritzler </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:43 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p><p>Article Contentsp. 50p. 51p. 52</p><p>Issue Table of ContentsAPT Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 1 (1998), pp. 1-60Front Matter [pp. 1-49]Letters to the Editor [pp. 3-4]Non-Destructive Evaluation of a Historic Wrought-Iron Truss Bridge in New Braunfels, Texas [pp. 5-10]Structural Glued Laminated Timber: History and Early Development in the United States [pp. 11-17]Ethyl Silicate as a Treatment for Marble: Conservation of St. John's Hall, Fordham University [pp. 19-26]Metallurgical Assessment of Historic Wrought Iron: U.S. Custom House, Wheeling, West Virginia [pp. 27-34]Energy Simulation of Historic Buildings: St. Louis Catholic Church, Castroville, Texas [pp. 36-41]The Reign of Terra Cotta in the United States: Enduring in an Inhospitable Environment, 1930-1968 [pp. 43-48]Defying Gravity: The Resurrection of Architectural Terra-Cotta Fragments [pp. 50-52]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [p. 53]Review: untitled [pp. 54-55]Review: untitled [pp. 55-56]</p><p>Back Matter [pp. 57-60]</p></li></ul>