Friday, September 28, 2012

Mushroom System

In September 1914, the New Orleans architectural firm of Toledano, Wogan and Bernard was completing a new skyscraper in the Central Business District, the Johns-Manville Building (441 Gravier Street/225 Magazine Street).  The building employed a recently patented flat-slab construction system that allowed for thinner slabs, broader spans, and reduced shear. Minneapolis-based engineer Claude Allen Porter (C.A.P.) Turner (1869-1955) developed the system  after years working as a railroad bridge engineer for the Soo Line.

Turner's first documented mushroom system building was the Johnson-Bovey in Minneapolis (1906; razed). Milwaukee's Hoffman building (now Marshall) was completed the following year.(1)

In New Orleans, there was considerable interest in the Turner Mushroom System. J.T. Mann & Company was Turner's southern agent, and envisioned the Johns-Manville building its prototype.  The locally-published Building Review reported to the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects:

"The building is the highest of its kind in this city and is of the Turner Mushroom system construction. It is fireproof, has a modern sprinkling system, extensive fire extinguishing devices and automatic door shutters. The walls of the building are stuccoed, trimmed with press brick and polychromatic terra cotta, models of which were colored in the architect's office, giving a general color scheme that presents a composition of refinement and good taste. The average test of the floors have proven a loading capacity of 600 pounds to the square foot in spans averaging 20x20 feet with a deflection of not more and in some cases much less than 1-8 of an inch."

(1) In 2002, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

(2) "A New Turner Mushroom System Building." Building Review (19 September 1914), p. 8.

Images above: C.A.P. Turner, consulting engineer. Column Top Detail, Johns-Mansville Bldg., New Orleans, LA. Blueprint.  Toledano, Wogan & Bernard Office Records; "Testing Floor Load in the New Johns-Manville Mushroom System Building." Photographic reproduction. Building Review (19 September 1914), p. 8. Both Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tulane & the Beaux-Arts

In the second decade of the twentieth century, the Tulane Department of Architecture boasted its relationship to the Parisian École des Beaux Arts:

"The entrance requirements of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris are exacting and specific. The departments of this famous school have a standing hardly equalled by any college elsewhere in the world. To be a student in the 'Ecole' is one of the highest honors that can come to the young Frenchman and it is an honor no less prized by those foreigners who seek to gain admission through its doors."

"Last year 500 Frenchmen and 185 foreigners took the entrance examinations. Of these 185 foreigners 7 were Americans. Three of these Americans were successful and it is gratifying to note that of those three, two had been students of the Tulane Department of Architecture, viz: Feitel, B., Arch, 1911, and Armstrong, a three year student."

From "Architectural Department" Building Review125 (1913-1914), p. 7. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, September 24, 2012

At Large in the Library: Geosophy

This blog has mentioned University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emeritus Yi-Fu Tuan in earlier posts. His most recent book, Humanist Geography: An Individual's Search for Meaning, will be coming soon to Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Frenchtown 1911

We recently came across an early article by New Orleans architect, educator, librarian and preservationist Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, Sr. (1881-1953). The work was one of the first to posit a "Creole architecture" in New Orleans based on social customs and climate. As a young architect, Curtis dichotomized the demands for structural integrity and "orderliness" against the artistic romanticism evoked by the city's oldest (and rotted) buildings:

"[The architect] cannot translate its decayed beauty into new and fresh materials; and even when he tries to preserve some of the antique character of the building, the result is almost certain to be inharmonious and offensive to his own artistic sense."

Image above: N.C. Curtis, "Map of the Older Section of New Orleans, Locally Known as 'Frenchtown'." In "The Creole Architecture of the Old South." The Architectural Record XLIII:5 (May 1918): p. 437.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Orleans Traffic 1927

In 1927, New Orleans boasted a population of some 428,000 people. The city evidenced a 6.79 ratio of population to automobile ownership, compared to Milwaukee, Wisconsin's estimated 4.18 and Seattle, Washington's 4.68. Increasing vehicular traffic resulted in commuter congestion problems, as well as an elevated number of personal injury reports. Between 1925 and 1927, the vast majority of New Orleans' personal injury accidents involved a motorized vehicle and a pedestrian. Some 2,000 pedestrians were injured in accidents involving motorized vehicles (see chart above).

The city retained the services of Miller McClintock (†1960), then director of the Albert Russel Erskine Bureau for Street Traffic Research (housed on the top floor of Harvard University's Widener Library), and St. Louis urban planner Harland Bartholomew (1889-1989) to conduct a comprehensive study of traffic problems and to propose solutions. The team's resultant work, The Street Traffic Control Problem of the City of New Orleans (November 1928), was based on extensive field observations and cartographic reporting.

McClintock and Bartholomew lauded the city's role as the first "to take formal recognition of the changed status between pedestrians and motor vehicles in its regulations and ordinances" but lamented that "there has not been a stricter enforcement of these provisions and that other cities which have copies [sic] similar regulations have been more successful in their application." (1) To rectify this problem, the team proposed enhanced regulations and ordinances, administrative reorganization and better selection and supervision of traffic division police personnel.

Read more in the Southeastern Architectural Archive. . .

(1)Miller McClintock and Harland Bartholomew. The Street Traffic Control Problem of the City of New Orleans (November 1928), p. 177. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.