It’s been an exciting six weeks so far interning at Li/Saltzman Architects on 50 Broadway near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. I’ve been working on a few projects simultaneously and moving from one to the next quite dynamically, which I’ve enjoyed very much.

A large portion of the work I’ve been doing might be qualified as “forensic”, meaning digging through Landmarks permits to figure out if the work was properly executed on a building, or how new architects could use the Landmarks recommendations to execute new designs based on older permits. A few landmarks I’ve worked on with these kinds of tasks are the Cipriani Building on 42nd Street, as well as the Brill Building on Broadway and 49th Street. It’s impressive how much say the LPC has over the built environment of New York. It would be incredible to have such a powerful legal entity in Beirut, monitoring the evolution of the visual landscape in the city. Architects and owners hire Historic Preservation firms such as Li/Saltzman, with experts such as Meisha Hunter my supervisor, to lead them through the hurdles of Landmarks in order to get an approved permit, or Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA).

An engaging project I’ve been involved in at Li/Saltzman is the Highbridge Water Tower, a 200-foot high structure located at the Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, Harlem. The structure, no longer used as a water tower since 1949, was designated a landmark in 1967. The New York City department of Parks and Recreation, who are the clients for this project, have been meaning to open up the structure to the public. Its beautiful exterior and interior are being renovated by Gandhi Engineering, Inc, with a few elements of the interior falling within the scope of Li/Saltzman Architects, such as the railings. These railings are not up to safety codes, and need to be modified to comply with current norms.

A site visit with my co-worker Nick Kazmierski entailed documenting the missing and/or damaged parts of the wooden railing, which winds  all the way up until a 7th floor landing where the water tanks previously stood. We made a detailed survey, with photographs and measurements, and I produced technical drawings of that survey overlaid on the original plan.

One of the most fulfilling part of producing the documents for this project was being offered the opportunity by my supervisor John Favazzo  to design a railing extension to the already existing railing at each of the landings of the winding stair. I developed a simple detail with a discreet metal plate which would be lazer-cut and bent to contour the existing rail, and bolted to its steel structure, offering an extra foot of height to comply with current safety codes. I applied that same principle of bending metal plates to add necessary handrail posts between the existing handrail and windows, preventing a small child to fall through an unsafe landing.

While I was completing the Design Package for the Highbridge Water Tower, I received notice that the Parks Department was interested in executing my design! We are now looking into scheduling a meeting with them to further discuss it.

I’m grateful for Li/Saltzman for this opportunity. The work they have entrusted me with so far has been very exciting and the people I have met here have been wonderful. I look forward to the rest of my internship here and to learning more from these experts in the field, whom I hope to stay in touch with throughout my stay in NYC.

Looking up at the atrium at the Highbridge Water Tower, b. 1866-72