Cupples Warehouse #7: The Future?

Update: Cupples 7 was demolished anyway.

The saving of exterior walls has occurred throughout the country. My experience with the saving of curtain walls, even when the rest of the building has been torn down, was in Washinton, DC in the 900 block of F Street NW. Above, you can witness what is essentially a completely free standing brick faade ten stories tall, supported by nothing but steel bracing, as the type proposed for Cupples #7. It begs the question of course, this was only temporary, right? Wrong, it was in this state for at least four years, so the sustainability of these bracings is considerable. Below, you can see the finished product: a brand new building built behind the historic facades with the bracing removed.

And heck, you can even have brick walls floating in mid-air as you can see the in photograph below. Yes, the two small building facades are no longer touching the earth, but are held in place by steel bracing.

The finished product is aesthetically pleasing, and the walls are now anchored to the ground and ready for tenants. Amazing.

Below are more buildings whose front facades were retained after the buildings behind them were torn down. Again, you can see how excavations behind the facades are possible for the new foundations of the building that will rise behind the old storefronts.

Fast forward, and the buildings are complete, and instead of what was once a wide open space, we have a densely built-up block, with the original alley still in place, as it has been for two hundred years.

Even without steel bracing, brick has shown resiliency throughout history; take the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius in Rome. Despite numerous earthquakes, a complete collapse of the vaulted roof, centuries of neglect and exposure to rain, the building still stands largely intact.

Likewise, in response to those who believe that taxpayers’ money (which hasn’t been confirmed yet anyway) should not be used to shore up the Cupples Warehouse, I point to the Coliseum. Damaged by earthquakes, the popes spent considerable taxpayer money to stabilize the building, understanding that some buildings are too important to fail, as demonstrated by the brick buttresses built on the ends of the outer wall of the arena. While I’m not claiming the Cupples Warehouses are as famous as the Coliseum, I believe that the cost of temporary steel buttressing can be justified in the return on the investment, both economically and culturally, when the building is renovated one day.

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