Documenting Deady Hall

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One of my New Years resolutions for 2018 was to finish a project I started two years ago. In the spring of 2016, I was a soon-to-be architecture school graduate minoring in historic preservation. I was working on a course project, the documentation of a university building to the standards of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). At the urging of my professor, I planned to submit my drawings of the building, Deady Hall, to the Leicester B. Holland Prize, an annual drafting competition run by the National Park Service. This idea, however, would soon be steamrolled by the machine that is College Graduation.

I left college, but Deady stuck with me. You could say I was haunted by the job left unfinished. So, in late winter of this year, with most of 2018 still in front of me and looking for a meaty project, I decided I wanted to pick up where I left off with Deady.

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The HABS program was established in 1933 as a make-work program, part of the New Deal. Architects, draftsmen, and photographers, unemployed during the Depression, were tasked with measuring and documenting a representative cross-section of American architectural heritage. The program is credited with providing the imagery that would inspire movement toward architectural preservation across America. HABS is often listed alongside its sister Heritage Documentation Programs: the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS). All three are operated by the Department of the Interior through the NPS. The Holland Prize, first awarded in 2011, is a recognition of excellence in a single-sheet measured drawing of a historic building, site, or structure.

The Holland Prize and HABS are premised on the accuracy of the drawings. The criteria for both the prize and HABS are specific and highly detailed. The NPS guidelines dictate preferred measuring methods, field note organization, CAD formatting, drawing scales and formats, line thicknesses, the use of hatching, the application of text, and SO much more.

I was acquainted with HABS documentation standards after my first attempt in 2016. As a one-woman operation, I knew I wouldn’t be able to measure the whole building, inside and out, on my own. I did have the tools, however, to take the 2D work of others, double-check their dimensions, combine the information, and construct a detailed 3D digital model. My drawings would have to rely on previous surveys of Deady, campus facilities records, and what strategic measurements I could take. I knew this process would to be unorthodox for HABS, but my year with Fat Pencil gave me confidence in the veracity of the final product.

I knew from the outset of the project that I wanted to push the boundaries of the Holland Prize in two specific ways. First, I believed Deady was most beautiful and impressive when viewed at one of its corners; I elected to make an isometric view of the building the centerpiece of my layout. Such drawings are used sparingly and more often used for HAER structural diagrams. Second, a standard HABS single-sheet includes a written description of the building, its history, and significance. Instead – in Fat Pencil fashion – I anchored my sheet with a timeline of Deady, moments in its history set against a graph of student enrollment over time.

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The Holland Prize was established with nostalgic sentiment for the waning art of architectural delineation, which originated from the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Prize competitors are encouraged to consider drafting by hand, but this route is taken only rarely. The vast majority of participants (and architectural practitioners, generally) rely on CAD and BIM softwares.

The measurement and survey process, too, is increasingly becoming digitized. HABS and the Holland Prize now ask that digital survey data be included in submission packets, such as that produced by Total Station and FARO laser scanners. Fat Pencil works with this kind of 3D data often, and I briefly considered using similar tech for Deady. Doing so would have been too-much-too-quickly for the scale of my operation, but access to tech and software like laser scanners and drones is increasing exponentially the rate at which all sizes of notable and historic sites and structures can be respectfully surveyed.

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Yana Stannik is a technical illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio.