Mr. Nobel’s proper work

March 10, 2010

Alfred Nobel was much chagrined at the use to which his great invention, dynamite, was put in the service of warfare.  Here’s a clip of a more pacific application.  This video is much better than the one I posted previously. You can see the bright flash of the ignition wires in the top of the frame just before the blast.


Krazy Architecture Critic

February 8, 2010

click image for full strip

From it’s completion in 1913 until about 1930, the Woolworth Building, funded by all those drugstore nickels and dimes across the country, was the world’s tallest.  A “cathedral of commerce” it was promptly dubbed, and a monument it truly is.  The entire facade is clad in white terracotta, intricately sculpted in a dizzying array of ornamental shapes.  The lobby is a stunning melange of gothic and byzantine sytles, with gorgeous gold and azure blue mosaics.  Every little piece of architectural furninture is created with brilliant gothic detail.

The structure was built quickly, and paid for in cash.  Click on the drawing here, from The Building of Manhattan by Donald MacKay, to get a detailed view of the innovative foundations that hold it all up.  (I heartily recommend this book for any urban infrastructure fanatics.)  The topmost surface of the bedrock in Manhattan is not on an even plane; it dips and rises in folds.  To some extent, this subsurface geology is responsible for the clustering of high-rises in midtown and downtown, with a relative slough in between.  The bedrock on the Woolworth site was said to be deep, too deep to excavate the entire pit down that far, so the caisson tubes were sunk instead.  Well, deep is a relative term, and what was deep in 1913 might not pose a problem today.  Thus, I daily watch over the huge “bathtub” of the World Trade Center site, excavated down to bedrock.  (See this post for a video a bedrock blast.)

Here are two views of the tower from the conference room where I work.  Nowadays, here in the United States of Fear, you can no longer visit the lobby of this great building.  Since 9/11, a sign posted on the sidewalk warns away tourists, and guards won’t let you in the door.  Yep, I’m sure those Islamic terrorists are busy scouring the AIA Guide to NYC for landmarks to target.

The golden ball on a pedestal is on the top of the AT&T Building, the lobby of which is shown below.  The building was erected in stages:  in 1927 the Broadway portion, faced in white, severe and enormous Doric columns was finished.  The entry is a vast space with the feel of a temple, and includes a memorial to the dead of WWI.  The contrast with the Woolworth Building, just across the street,  is extreme

And while we’re at it, here’s a Krazy Kat strip illustrating the need for gun control.


BLAST!

January 26, 2010

Photos from by office cubicle – please forgive the windowpane glare.  The building on the left was damaged 0n 9/11, and has been coming down in fits and starts ever since.  The one on the right is the new Freedom Tower, slowly rising to its planned 1776 feet.

Down in front of them is the big pit (below left) where four buildings were planned:  on the left, not in sight, is one rising quickly, pumped up by money from Larry Silverstein, the lucky guy who won the big bid for the lease to the entire WTC site, a few weeks before 9/11.  (He tried to collect double from his insurers, claiming two planes, two towers, two attacks, two payouts! )  Next to this site is a big mud hole where his second tower is supposed to go, but he’s having money problems these days, what with his lawsuit against the insurers being not too successful, and the general state of the real estate market in NYC

A third site of his, also a languishing mud pit, is on the far right of the big pit.  In between is the site of the future PATH terminal, designed by Santiago Calatrav (above right).  It’s under construction now, even as the terminal, such as it is, continues in use by people like me.  When it’s finished, my commute will be shorter by ten minutes or more, just by eliminating the crowds and detours around construction work.

I thought the contractors had gotten rid of all the bedrock in the way, but some is still sticking up too high out of the earth.  The pictures below show a portion of it, drilled with a grid of holes that are, I think, where the dynamite charges are placed.  In the bottom right of the picture on the left below, you can see the heavy steel woven mats that are placed over the charge area to prevent rocks from flying all over the place.

The video below captures the last horn sounded before the blast goes off.  You can see the man at the top of the image wave to indicate it’s time to throw the switch.  Many times, when the switch is thrown, the wires to the charge area flash white like lightning before the sound of the blast is heard, but in this case, they didn’t, I don’t know why.

This is how it looks from floor 31.


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