Sunday, July 13, 2008

Convention Center bricks inauthentic

As detail work continues on the hotel and convention center structure, a brick veneer is being applied to various parts of the building. One of these places is at the bridge from the hotel lobby to the parking garage.

I finally got a good look at the brick being used; it has a rough pseudo-weathered look, with uneven horizontal gouges in the face of the brick.

It is my opinion that this design is supposed to imitate the weathered brick of so many of Lancaster City's older buildings. The problem is, that's not the way Lancaster's original bricks should look.

Many of Lancaster City's older buildings were built with a soft orange brick. This brick was designed to be painted, to protect it from the elements. A few buildings used a better quality brick along the street,only exposing soft brick on the sides and rear.

A part of the backlash against the disastrous "Urban Renewal" projects of the 1960s was a new interest in historic preservation. By this time, many of Lancaster's buildings had layer upon layer of paint, which people considered unsightly. During the 1970s, it became something of a fad to remove these many layers of paint by sandblasting the brick. Usually, the brick was then "sealed" with a type of silicone. This supposedly had the added advantage of avoiding the need to paint the brick every several years,which could be a costly proposition.

The problem is, the sandblasting process broke the surface of the brick, exposing its softer interior. Not only did sandblasting give the brick a rough look, it accelerated the weathering of the brick. And very few sandblasted buildings were ever re-treated with sealer, which should have been done every few years.

Thirty years later, most of these sandblasted buildings demonstrate visible deterioration of their exterior brick. Most notably, water has been seeping into the surface of these bricks, which eventually causes the surface of the brick to break away. Many downtown buildings have at least a few bricks that have been damaged in this way, leaving what appears to be recessed areas on the surfaces of these buildings.

The hotel and convention center project appears to be intentionally imitating the appearance of this premature weathering process.