Facade-Saving - What For?

The ReUse PeopleBy Ted Reiff

In the February 12, 2014, edition of his blog, Building Blocks, which appears regularly in the New York Times, David W. Dunlap describes the imminent demolition of the American Folk Art Museum on West 53rd Street, New York, noting that the new owner, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) plans to salvage the 63 metal panels that comprise the facade of the building.

Saving the facades of buildings to preserve their architectural beauty and history and then erecting them elsewhere is certainly preferable to complete demolition. An excellent example is the old Samson Tire and Rubber Company (known as the Citadel) built in 1929 in the City of Commerce. In 1978 the factory was abandoned and over the years much of the campus was destroyed by weather, vandals and fire. Fortunately, the landmark facade was saved (in place) and later used to screen an entire commercial complex of stores, hotels and restaurants.

Unfortunately, MOMA has no plan for the folk-art facade, so for now it will go into storage. If it languishes for long, recycling the metal may prove to have been the better option.

Facade-saving is just one in a hierarchy of measures for preserving architectural history, which includes:

  • Preserving the entire building, but adapting it to a new use (adaptive reuse)
  • Moving the structure
  • Disassembling the entire building and re-assembling it in a new location
  • Deconstructing the entire building and making all the parts (architectural as well as utilitarian) available for reuse
  • Preserving and keeping in place specific components, as discussed above
  • Removing key components and using them elsewhere – often called soft-stripping

Any of these is preferable to burying noteworthy history in a landfill.

In its history of deconstruction and building-materials salvage, TRP has frequently removed entire buildings, leaving only their facades, ready to be included in new structures. Of course, the balance of these buildings was carefully dismantled, distributed and sold for reuse.

I was particularly struck by two quotes in Mr. Dunlap’s column. The first is a strong endorsement of adaptive reuse. Elizabeth Diller, an architect called in to consider alternatives for the building, stated “…Facades and buildings and their organization, their logic, are tied entirely together. You either have the integrity of a building, with all its intelligence and connected ideas or you don’t. But if you detach a symbol of what it meant – away from its body, its logic, its intelligence – it feels very empty.”

One of the architects who designed the building, Tod Williams, made a similar observation, prior to the building’s construction: “Everyone in the press will talk about the panels because they’re out front. But the building will be important not because of the panels but because of the space-making inside.”

The problem with storing important pieces of anything is they have a nasty habit of disappearing or being forgotten. Take a look in your basement, attic or garage.

As John Freeman Gill observed in his 4/23 NY Times op-ed piece, “The Folly of Saving What You Kill,” also about MOMA’s plan to save and store the facade of the folk art museum, “…the killer’s generous offer to store the corpse’s skin in its closet or yard should probably not be greeted with too much faith or optimism.”

Gill cites a similar effort to preserve the 150-ton iron facade of the Bogardus Building, which was razed in 1971. The pieces of the facade were stored on a secured city lot until 1974, when two-thirds of the landmark’s iron panels were stolen in broad daylight and sold for scrap. What was left of the facade was moved to a secret location, but in 1977 another heist left so little of the facade that reuse, adaptive or otherwise, was impossible.

I believe there are two key steps to any preservation measure: 1) determine exactly what is to be preserved, and 2) have an immediate plan for the portion to be reused. The stopgap measure of storing something for some unspecified future use is not only pointless, but expensive. You might as well bury it.

Special Event Reminders

Retail Warehouse Training

If you, or someone you know, are interested in starting and running a retail warehouse, TRP now offers retail training on an open-registration basis, in Oakland. The next training session is June 16 – June 20.

For more information, visit our website.

October 23 – 25, 2014 Reuse Alliance’s Reuse Conex Conference and Expo, Austin, TX. For more information, visit http://www.reuseconex.org/

Specials of the Month

At the Oakland warehouse we are featuring windows. Receive 25% off the price of any window through May 31.
The ReUse People Specials
The Los Angeles warehouse is featuring plumbing fixtures. Receive 25% off the price of any sink, tub, or toilet through May 31.
The ReUse People Specials

New Inventory

The Oakland warehouse warehouse has received several cherry wood cabinets. Gorgeous centerpieces for spring kitchen remodels!

Deconstruction & New Materials Update

Visit the TRP website for a complete list of current deconstruction projects and inventories. Just click on “Retail Sales” and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Location and Contact Information

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Oakland
9235 San Leandro Street
Oakland, CA  94603
(510) 383-1983; toll-free 888-588-9490
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-6:00 Closed Sunday

TRP ReUse Warehouse - Los Angeles
3015 Dolores Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00; Sat 10:00-4:00

Please visit our partnering warehouses:
Habitat for Humanity ReStores, Orange County (two convenient locations)
12827 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA 92840
(714) 590-8729
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00- 8:00; Saturday 9:00-6:00; Sunday 11:00-5:00
2200 S. Ritchey Street, Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 434-6266
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-5:00; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Kansas City
4701 Deramus, Kansas City MO 64120
(816) 231-6889
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-6:00; Sat 9:00-4:00; closed Sunday

Reuse Depot
2711 Washington Blvd, Unit E
Bellwood, IL 60104
(708) 240-4910
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-5:00p; Sat 10:00-4:00

The ReUse Warehouse
800 Taylor Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 219-4913
Hours: Mon-Fri, 2:00-6:00; Sat, 9:30-5:00

Second Chance Building Materials Center
1423 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 331-2707
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00-6:00; Sun, 12:00-5:00

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt Lake Valley,
1276 South 500 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 263-0136
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm; closed Sunday

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Summit & Wasatch Counties
6280 N. Silver Creek Drive, Silver Summit, UT
(435) 487-9015
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00; closed Sunday

Recycle Utah
1951 Woodbine Way Park City, UT 84060
(435) 649-9698
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00-5:30; Sun 10:00-4:00

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