Article: Marin County CC roof to get $17M makeover

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DavidC
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Article: Marin County CC roof to get $17M makeover

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DavidC
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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

I wouldn't call the blue of the roof "iconic." They should look into the feasibility of converting the roof color to the gold that FLW specified. That would be iconic.

DavidC
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DavidC
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DavidC
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SDR
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Post by SDR »

Lengthy and informative interview with Bill Schwarz, our own wjsaia. Read to the end for the full story of his contributions, and an understanding of the history of the building and its roof.

S

wjsaia
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Post by wjsaia »

I hope this might provide a degree of clarifying illumination of some of the practical circumstances with respect to the Marin County Civic Center roof color. The feasibility of applying a gold-colored roofing membrane as had been originally intended by Wright was explored rigorously in 1960-61 (subsequent to receipt of bids and award of the contract for construction of the Administration building), and the prospect for a successful outcome for the by-then-contracted-for gold roof membrane was determined to be so daunting that the aspiration was deemed infeasible and, I believe responsibly, abandoned. Whatever view one might have held in the past or now holds concerning the decision by Taliesin Associated Architects to employ instead a blue-colored roof coating, it is undoubtedly the case that an application of a gold roofing membrane shall never be considered or accomplished. It is even less likely now than ever before, and there are at least two reasons for this.

For fifty-eight years, the roofs have never been gold. They were blue upon completion of construction and blue on those two separate dates many years later when state and federal landmark designations were given to the buildings. When the Guggenheim was refurbished around 2006-7, some of us Wright aficionados attempted to persuade the Museum’s board, upon re-coating the building exterior, to revert to the color that Wright had selected and that was its finish color upon completion of construction later that year. The building'd exterior finish stood unaltered for many years afterward. (The Museum has in its possession the color chip on which FLlW applied his Initials to indicate his choice and approval for use, and in color photos taken by David Wheatley of Wright standing on the Monitor balcony observing construction in 1959, one can see in he background his selected and approved straw color finish being applied by workers on the exterior of the rotunda.) Nevertheless, following established guidelines and protocol, advice from the architectural preservation community dissuaded the Museum from giving serious consideration to this proposed color reversion, citing that the building had been white as of the date of its designation as a NYC landmark and thus it should so remain. The building was accordingly again re-painted white as part of that restoration effort.

Another reason would be the concern that a gold-colored bronze powder suspended in a transparent, elastomeric, waterproof coating could likely fade or tarnish or that the transparent material might discolor, either or both with unsightly results. Also, applicable standards enforced by the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District would prohibit the release into the atmosphere of solvents that would be required in the formulation and application of such a coating. Basically, such a legally compliant waterproof membrane system would have to be invented. It would require heroic measures. No public agency, and in this case in particular the County of Marin, would elect to undertake (and fund) such an experimental venture under the circumstances.

Although I do think the word “iconic� in its title might have been used erroneously�or maybe for the sake of well-intentioned hyperbole only reflective of the author’s (or quite possibly his editor’s) enthusiasm for its topic, the cited article by reporter Steven E. F. Brown in the North Bay Business Journal is in every way otherwise more comprehensively reported and contains none of the egregiously false or misinformed statements that one typically sees. I think it credits most but may have left out one or two of the parties who have shown exemplary commitment to accomplish the currently-ongoing roof covering replacement project at the highest standards of historic building renovation design and construction execution. Architects, engineers and materials scientists at Wiss Janney Elstner Associates’ Emeryville, CA office conducted a staggeringly meticulous survey of the existing roof conditions and prepared comprehensive construction documents to address the vast multitude and variety of needs that were required to provide a reconditioned and sound substrate suitable to receive application of the new replacement roofing. WJE is also providing construction management and day-to-day on-site inspection services to the County of Marin. Arntz Brothers, General Contractor of Santa Rosa, Rainbow Waterproofing and Restoration Company of San Francisco as its principal subcontractor responsible for the broad majority of all work and representatives of Sika Corporation U.S., supplier of the coating materials, have each demonstrated nothing but the best attitude and dedication towards a successful outcome. Behind that lies a heartwarming, devoted commitment on the parts of the officials of the County of Marin, its administrators and directors in the Department of Public Works and particularly the project managers in DPW’s Capital Projects Division who have imparted to all designers, contractors and participants a spirit that has invited achievement of excellence�all admirable and commendable on everyone’s part, and this must include broadly as well the citizens of Marin County who have supported their local government’s effort in this instance. Personally, it has been very gratifying and, frankly, rather inspirational to observe how Wright’s architecture has influenced so many towards aspirations for achievement at the highest standards in this particular endeavor.

With, as always, much more to say, I’ll leave it at that for now . . .

Except, if you have not yet, look at the photos of the blue roof. It’s not gold, but it’s not just “blue� either�it’s a particularly wonderful shade of blue (in my opinion), and I can guarantee this is the same shade as was selected back in 1960. I’ve only seen it on the building for relatively short periods�first in the early 1960s following completion of the Administration Building, again in 1969 for a while when the newly-constructed Hall of Justice was roofed and the Admin. Building received a fresh application of the color coat, again in 1999 at the time of the previous re-roofing, and again now with the present project. (the Hall of Justice will be re-roofed later this year.) Most often one will read descriptions of the Civic Center as having “sky blue� roofs, and most often photographs show such faded conditions. I think this problem may be a factor in some of the negative criticism one will occasionally find expressed concerning the Civic Center. SIka Corporation U.S. ran weathering tests on this new coating’s color-fastness that indicated favorable expectations, and that was partly the basis for the selection of its product. Let’s hope . . .

WJS

North Bay Business Journal article:

https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com ... artslide=1

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

At "...following established guidelines and protocol..." you lost me, Bill. That is the bureaucrat's way out of a difficult situation that would require making a decision which might not be as easily defensible. It is always arbitrary and, for me, never acceptable. Marin and Guggenheim (which you bring up to bolster the Marin decision, like saying "Billy did it, why can't I, mommy?") have had massive investments made to care for extraordinary works of art by Frank Lloyd Wright, not any individual, board of directors, or such like, who have power over the situation. For the most part, those who make decisions along the line are eventually forgotten; FLW is for the ages.

The second reason for not going gold makes a lot of sense. To finish the roof in gold, as Cass Gilbert finished the cap on the New York Life Building (1925) with 25,000 gold leaf tiles, shining as brightly today as ever, might have doubled the cost of the Marin roof. So any gold-like material would have to be much cheaper. As I understand it, and certainly I may be wrong, the reason metallic paints fail is oxidation. If the metallic paint is sealed in an airtight, transparent material (polyurethane?) that couldn't be penetrated by oxygen, wouldn't that solve the problem? The gold leaf of Gilbert's tiles is encased in glass, and that works. It seems improbable that there is no transparent paint-on material that could not hold up for the 20+ years of life a roof has. Since poly had been used on the roof before, it surely can't be ruled out for the redo.

Nevertheless, here we are. And if there is another bright light (the first being that the massive project was taken on at all), it is that a man of your stature, Bill, has been involved from the beginning. Congratulations.

DavidC
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Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond

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