I just saw Kenneth Love’s film “Saving Fallingwater”. The film documents restoration efforts to stabilize the cantilevered sections of the Frank Lloyd Wright (insert your own superlative here) designed residence in Pennsylvania. It was perfect timing for me to see the film because it really put our piazza stabilization project at the Aiken-Rhett House in perspective. It’s hard to single out any one aspect of the Save America’s Treasures work as being more important than another, but the piazza stabilization has to be towards the top. The problem is that the arcade supporting the two story piazza is rotating away from the building. There have been previous attempts at stabilization, but the combination of a rather shallow footing under the arches and downward pressure from the weight has continued to the degree that it has become a high priority for stabilization.
In order to do this, the restoration team designed a series of metal tie-rods to secure the piazza floor joists to the building’s interior. Basically, flat iron rods were attached to the sides of the piazza floor joists, holes were mined through the masonry walls, the iron run into the building, another flat iron piece was secured to either interior floor joists or embedded into a load bearing masonry wall, and the two flat sections joined with threaded rod that incorporates a turnbuckle to tighten the two together. All the metal work was then white washed to blend in and the masonry repaired so you wouldn’t even know what happened.
Pretty simple in design, VERY messy to install, especially when you have visitors needing to be in the same area. This hasn’t been the most exciting part of the project, unless you consider the alternative, but like the folks at Fallingwater I’ve learned that you can minimize the aesthetic impact of a potentially intrusive restoration project if you plan well.
Next entry will discuss why faux finishes on a building’s exterior were so important to people like the Aikens in the 19th Century.