Construction Technologies and Jazz Age Skyscrapers of the 1920’s: Insights into the Durability of Their Designs—Case Study: Cincinnati’s Carew Tower/Netherland Plaza Hotel
presented by Richard Rauh, Richard Rauh and Associates
Wednesday, May 21, 2:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Session: Assuring the Performance of Restoration Materials and Techniques

Technologically unimproved for a half century, the 1.8 million sq ft Carew Tower complex of 3 skyscrapers in Cincinnati (completed in 1930) had declined by the late 1980's to a heroic assembly of archaic, experimental early 20th century systems. From fractured masonry skin and rusted riveted steel frame to primitive, discontinuous exits and multi-floor, communicating monumental atrium public spaces, systems were redesigned to meet current standards. In public areas, reconstruction and restoration of the largest, most unified example of a French "Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Moderne" (French Art Deco) interior in North America or Europe received a National Trust Honor Award in 1985. The building is presented as a case study of problems and issues inherent in a monumental project constructed experimentally in the midst of a technological/cultural transition from a previous era of small- scale, centuries-old practices to prototype structures of unprecedented size and scope heralding the modern era.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain why new buildings are often repositories of anachronistic obsolete building technologies that performed well in the technological era immediately preceding their construction,but proved to be inadequate in their new application.
  • Explain why, the more ambitious the effort to expand horizons into new frontiers of design, construction and architectural engineering (and economic development), that persistence of archaic building technologies (based in discomfort with novelty at the detail level) turns out to be an Achilles Heel of durability for such projects.
  • Explain why it is important to be mindful of the "Peter Principle" of building technology when following the best construction practices cookbook with respect to durability and design.
  • Discuss the inevitability of trial and error and experimentation in the step-by-step evolution of building construction technologies and architectural engineering best practices.
  • Describe some mitigation measures that have been employed to address inadequate performance of, failure of, or damage to basic building systems as a consequence of application of anachronistic practice into the design and construction of buildings.
  • Appreciate that, in principle, the technology of building is always in an imperfect state of transition from comparatively primitive reliable practices that are inapplicable to new, unproven practices that are experimental.
  • Appreciate that current technologies will inevitably be challenged by applying them beyond the limit of their proven capabilities on exceptional projects in exceptional circumstances.

  • Speaker Bio:

    Richard Raugh is Principal Architect at Richard Rauh & Associates/Architects in Atlanta, GA. He received his Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree from Harvard and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Columbia. His work at Cincinnati's Carew Tower began in 1982 and continued through the 1990's.

    His professional work has been featured in various books and publications including USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Contemporary American Architects, Town & Country, Connoisseur Magazine, Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. His firm did the initial advocacy work that saved Atlanta's Margaret Mitchell House, where Gone With the Wind was written, from demolition. He has served on the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board for 18 years. Rauh has also been the recipient of many awards, honors and distinctions from organizations that include the Atlanta Urban Design Commission, Georgia AIA, Kentucky AIA, the Ohio Historical Society, the Society of American Registered Architects, The Miami Design Preservation League, The City of Key West, Cincinnati Magazine and others.