Monday, November 26, 2012

Unit Buildings Principle

In September 1951, Laurence G. Farrant (1921-1978), a Miami-based consulting engineer, published an article in Architectural Record pertaining to a new parking structure that he had helped to realize. Working with project engineer W.C. Harry and New Orleans architects Diboll-Kessels at the request of parking lot entrepreneur George Blaise, Farrant developed a flat-slab garage comprised of 30 independent structures with column supports hinged at the bottoms.

Influenced by the work of Swiss civil engineer Robert Maillart (1872-1940), Farrant developed the plan based on the "unit buildings" principle, which allowed overlapping cantilevers to accommodate additional automobiles. The hinged column bottoms allowed the independence of the separate building units, and also provided more space for automobiles. Ramps between levels were simply hung between unit buildings in a non-continuous placement in order to secure the unit buildings' independence. Farrant asserted that his scheme yielded considerable savings in the purchase of steel and concrete, for he was able to reduce the slab thickness over what would have been required for a single monolithic base.(1)

Click here to see more recent images of the structure.

(1) Laurence G. Farrant. "Parking Garage: Series of Unit Buildings." Architectural Record (September 1951): pp. 167-170; Laurence G. Farrant. "Unit Buildings Cut Construction Costs." Journal of the American Concrete Institute 47:5 (May 1951): pp. 669-679.

Images above:  Details, Laurence G. Farrant. Drawings for garage for Blaise, Inc., 200 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA. Diboll-Kessels and Associates, Architects. March 1950. Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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