Friday, January 9, 2015

Men at Work 1927

Over four years ago, we posted a 1903 illustration of the Radford Architectural Company's design department.  For those interested in Architectural Practices in the Age of Manual-Mechanical Reproduction, the following 1927 account may be of interest:

"It is very gratifying to me to observe how the carefully laid plans of procedure in connection with the Jung Hotel project are working out. In order to avoid the customary method of endless erasure and re-drafting on the large scale working drawings, with the consequent liability of making grievous errors by not following the changes through all the affected sheets on various tables and in so many different hands, with the attendant smudging and soiling of the finished sheets and possible necessity of marking new sheets (sometimes nearly completed) which had become torn and frayed and crinkled under such harsh usage, and to prevent the demoralization of the draftsmen under the circumstances of their continual uncertainty, we decided to make complete studies on small scale, and to make all erasures and changes on these preliminary sheets. This method was adhered to with stubborn determination against the temptation to begin the actual working drawings, even though it sometimes seemed that we were hazarding time and delaying constructive progress.

"The result was that a few days ago we had completed accurate, dependable small scale models, with all necessary alterations, erasures and adjustments made and carefully checked; whereupon we started four men to work up the final drawings. They are going full speed ahead upon these, with full confidence that they are headed straight and will not be obliged to rub out and redraft. Their progress is almost unbelievably fast; and as soon as we have settled some further problems, which are being worked out under my guidance, and are now nearly all solved, we will put at least two more men to drafting working drawings; which will, of course, result in a fifty per cent increase in speed.

"Insofar as the drafting portion of the designing operation is concerned, we are very much in the position of one who has already carefully cut and fitted various little oddly shaped pieces of a pattern quilt and who has now only to lay them into their respective places in the pattern and to stitch and bind them all together in the finished article.

"Parallel with this work, the structural steel and concrete designs have been progressing, and the heating, wiring, ventilation, plumbing, refrigerating, and other mechanical equipment systems have been designed and developed, so that these are now advanced to a stage of completion concurrent with the architectural plans. Under the circumstances, I am encouraged to hope that sufficient progress may have been made to justify my beginning the composition of the specifications within two weeks from tonight.

"Three things must be accomplished before I can work upon the specifications:  First, the plans must have been completed to a point where I am able to retire in quiet to work, without being interrupted every few moments with questions to answer, decisions to make, problems to solve, emanating from the drafting room and from the structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering system designers; second, the plans must have been developed to a point where a set of blue prints from the semi-completed sheets may be furnished so as to afford an adequate idea of the nature and scope of the various contract operations that will be involved; and finally, the plans must have been brought to such a stage of detail and notation and dimension as to make it possible for me to check them for errors as I write the description and requirements of workmanship, materials, and methods, because this checking that I do, as as I study the plans, sheet by sheet and operation by operation, is the only minute and intimate check they receive in this vital respect."

Leon Weiss.  Letter to Caroline Dreyfous. 11 August 1927.  The Writings of Leon Weiss, Vol. I. Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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