Calendar of Events

Tue 10.07.2014

Keeping it Real: Researching Historic Buildings


When: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM TUESDAY, ARCHTOBER 7

Where: At The Center   

More than an academic pursuit, researching the design and construction history of a building can have tangible applications for architects who are responsible for the preservation, continued use, and transformation of historic buildings. Regardless of the level of significance of an older structure, much can be learned from a variety of archival resources about a historic building’s context, original design intent and spatial configuration, evolution over time, and unique materials, technologies, and systems. Maps, drawings, photographs, and various types of publications are just some of the important documentary sources that (taken together with careful physical investigation and examination) can provide an evidence-based framework for making informed design decisions that can enhance the value, aesthetics, and function of a historic building while retaining integrity and significance for future generations.

Panelists will present examples and step-by-step strategies for researching historic buildings, starting with an overview of what information is useful to learn and why. Established as well as newly-available online tools and resources will be highlighted as a starting point for gathering information about a historic building. Speakers will explain how these resources can be used to direct in-depth investigations for specifics at various libraries, universities, and public archives, and will present case studies demonstrating the direct benefits that historic research can bring to the preservation and adaptation of historic buildings.

Mary Beth Betts, Ph.D., Director of Research, Landmarks Preservation Commission
Donald Friedman, P.E.,  President, Old Structures Engineering, PC
Teresa Harris, Ph.D., Project Coordinator, Marcel Breuer Digital Archive, Syracuse University 
Nancy A. Rankin, AIA , LEED AP, Principal, John G. Waite Associates

ModeratorNathan Hoyt, FAIA, Architect

Nathan Hoyt, FAIA is an architect and a member of the Historic Buildings Committee of AIANY. Hoyt received his Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and has lectured on his work nationally. His experience includes work for performing arts organizations, libraries, universities, government and private clients. His expertise working with historically significant buildings is reflected in his projects for the Harvard Club of New York, The New York Public Library, The Frick Collection, and The Juilliard School, among others. Hoyt currently serves as Co-Chair of the American Institute of Architects Interior Architecture Knowledge Community Advisory Group.

Mary Beth Betts received a Ph.D. in Art History with a specialization in modern architecture from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in October 1999. She has been Director of Research at the Landmarks Preservation Commission from April 1999 to the present where she manages a department whose primary duties include assessing requests for potential landmarks, researching and writing materials for potential individual landmarks and historic districts going through the public hearing and designation process, and surveys of study areas for potential individual landmarks and historic districts. Ms. Betts previously worked as Curator of Architecture at The New-York Historical Society for nine years and taught the history of architecture at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union for 14 years. She has published essays on the architecture of Cass Gilbert, planning the New York City Waterfront and the architecture of City Hall, curated exhibitions on the New York City Waterfront, City Hall and the architecture of McKim, Mead & White and lectured on numerous topics.

Donald Friedman is president of Old Structures Engineering, PC, a structural engineering consulting firm for historic and old buildings. A professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in the investigation, analysis, and restoration of landmark buildings, Mr. Friedman holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.A. in Historical Studies from the New School for Social Research. Mr. Friedman’s design experience includes the integration of modern construction into existing buildings with archaic and obsolete structural systems; repair and restoration of steel, masonry, iron, wood, and concrete structures; and the investigation of historic buildings to determine structural type and condition. In addition to Mr. Friedman’s project work, he has taught engineering of historic buildings in the building conservation programs at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is the author of After 9-11: An Engineer’s Work at the World Trade Center, Historical Building Construction and The Investigation of Buildings, and the co-author of Building the Empire State and The Design of Renovations.

Teresa Harris is the project coordinator for the NEH-funded “Marcel Breuer Digital Archive” at Syracuse University. The goal of this project is to bring together geographically disparate collections relating to the career of the modernist architect Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) in a critical online edition. Teresa received her Ph.D. from the department of Art History & Archaeology at Columbia University in February of 2012. Her dissertation entitled, “The German Garden City Movement: Architecture, Politics and Urban Transformation, 1902-1931,” investigated the intellectual history and built work of the German Garden City Movement. Her research interests include twentieth-century architecture and urban planning, with an emphasis on the intersection of social and aesthetic reform.

Nancy A. Rankin, AIA, LEED AP is a principal with John G. Waite Associates, Architects and has been an integral part of the firm for more than 15 years. Ms. Rankin has worked on several prominent historic preservation projects, including New York City's historic Tweed Courthouse; the Nassau County Government Operations Center in Mineola, NY; Hamilton Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton in Harlem, NY; and Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home and summer White House in Oyster Bay, NY. Ms. Rankin is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with degrees in both Architecture and Building Science. Since 2013, she has been the co-chair (United States) of the Association for Preservation Technology International’s Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation. Ms. Rankin has contributed to the fields of architecture and historic preservation through numerous lectures and publications, and she co-authored the book Tweed Courthouse: A Model Restoration, published in 2006.

Price: Free for AIA members; $10 for non-members


Organized by: AIANY Historic Buildings Committee
Sponsored by: Artistry in Architectural Grilles


A program of Archtober, Architecture and Design Month, New York City, October 2014.


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