I’m writing up this project for entry in the SWR (Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration) Institute’s Trinity Project Awards Program.
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art Exterior Restoration involved restoration cleaning, repair and improvement.
The 50-year-old museum is a Philip Johnson design. Mr. Johnson also designed the AT&T Building in New York City. Some might say Mr. Johnson’s museum is artistically significant as any of the fabulous paintings, photos and sculptures within.
Nevertheless, after half a century, you could expect to see some wear and tear.
SWR Institute members Harper-Brawner, LLC, Arlington, Texas; Mid-Continental Restoration, Fort Scott, Kan.; and PROSOCO, Lawrence, Kan., worked together this past year to shore up the museum’s deteriorating exterior.
The major problems started with cracks in the shellstone front of the museum. In the above photo you get just a hint of the big granite addition to the museum, which Mr. Glass also designed. It had problems too.
The silicone sealant joints bled and stained the polished granite panels — a stain, according to project architect Bland Harper, “not typically thought possible to remove.” Also, where the granite panels went below grade, they wicked up moisture, causing water stains in the beautiful stone.
Harper-Brawner’s assessment turned up a few other problems, too, including deteriorating concrete pavers at the museum’s front pavilion, and a front sidewalk graded the wrong way that directed rainwater into the front door. Those fixes came outside the time period for the award, so I acknowledged them in the award entry write-up, but didn’t include them for consideration with the other repairs.
As I wrote about these repairs, I realized that this restoration, like most involving both aesthetics and sustainability, has artistic elements — maybe not at the level of the original design, or the collections within — but could be considered restoration “art” nonetheless.
I thought the answer to the below-grade granite wicking up the water was particularly elegant.
Mid-Continental Restoration excavated around the base of the building and installed a concrete curb. The above-grade part of the curb directs water away from the building, and sends it into the ground, where the below-grade part of the curb blocks the water from wicking up into the granite and causing stains.
They dyed the concrete curb to fit in with the granite panels. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the curb is an improvement in appearance (I think it is), but there’s no arguing that it’s an improvement in building sustainability.
Saw cutting new expansion joints into cracking areas of the shellstone fabric, and making it look like it was always meant to be that way also has a touch of the artistic about it, too, in my humble.
Initially, Harper-Brawner told museum officials they might not be able to remove the staining from the bleeding silicone joints. But test panels with PROSOCO’s Sure Klean Dicone NC15 Gel silicone sealant & adhesive remover showed promise. In any case, the old sealant had to come out to stop further staining, and had to be replaced with a new, non-staining sealant.
Mid-Continental Restoration also gave the building a thorough washing with PROSOCO’s EnviroKlean BioKlean. It’s made for safely removing both biological and atmospheric staining, and was chosen, said Howard Kinsel of Mid-Continental Restoration, because there was plenty of both contaminants on the building.
This, of course, is just the merest bare-bones description of parts of a year-long project. But I think it clearly shows the “art” of restoration in action. After all, if people who restore historic paintings are artists, I believe the people who restore historic buildings housing those paintings are artists too.
Photos provided by Bland Harper, Harper-Brawner LLC.
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