• The Woolworth Building

    I was reading a number of articles on this gothic styled 60 story building which is now 100 Years old, the whole of the facade is made up of over 16 MILLION pounds of terracotta made by the Atlantic TC Co.

    The building’s facade has more than 400,000 units of terra cotta. Due to the lack of maintenance, the anchors attaching the terra cotta to the steel frame rusted and caused widespread damage to the terracotta panels. Many broken pieces have had to be replaced with new terracotta, or in some cases, an alternative material which these days is usually cheap fiberglass replicas or fiberglass reinforced concrete.

    By 1978, just 65 years old- the building’s four smaller towers were badly disintegrated due to constant exposure to the elements and faced structural issues. The cost of terra cotta replacements was described as “shocking” at the time. Budget constraints led the architects to instead stabilize the towers and cover them with pressed aluminum sheaths that loosely resembled the original silhouette and color scheme.

    That has me thinking again about this scenario which I’m seeing a lot of- extensive (translate that into costly) restorations and replacements of damaged or destroyed elements, all of this costly work had to be done on this building that is only now 100 years old, logic and common sense tells us that if the building needed all this work in the first 100 years, it will need it again within the next 100 years! But if the architects and all thought the replacement terracotta costs was “shocking” now, imagine what the cost will be 100 years from now!
    So THEN what happens? just keep replacing, and replacing and replacing? at some point there will be so much replaced with cheap fiberglass and other materials there won’t be a lot of the original left, and by 100 years from now the elements put in today will themselves be 100 years old and deteriorated to the point they have to be replaced too, with the original elements now 200 years old.
    If the building was damaged by years of poor maintenance who can say we won’t see a repeat of that?