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Rustic Engineering

Another project complete: the restoration of the Chess & Checkers House and the creation of a semi-new, semi-restoration rustic shade structure around it. We were the structural engineers; the Central Park Conservancy was both the client and architectural designers. Our project manager was Shaquana Lovell.

The actual building is small and structurally quite simple. The shade, designed in the rustic style used for many of the non-building structures in the park was not. It looks simple, and maybe conceptually it is, but the structural design of that shade using not-entirely-straight, variable-section, barely trimmed logs – and sitting on almost-exposed bedrock – was not.

There’s a constant internal tension with structures like this. The precedent shade structure in the park was constructed in the 1800s with zero structural design. It feels like it shouldn’t be difficult to match that today. But that old structure, lacking explicit structural design, couldn’t be counted on to withstand the occasional hurricane wind load, and might not withstand a heavy snowstorm or the icing that follows a partial melt. In short, the new structure is better than the old specifically because it’s been designed by engineers – us! – to meet current standards. It looks a lot like the old one, but we can state that it won’t blow down in a storm. 

It’s maybe weird that I feel like this simple and slightly-funny-looking structure explains our profession better than, say, the skyscraper in yesterday’s blog post, but our work sometimes takes us weird places both literally and figuratively.