Spitzer Team Advances to Finals of APT Design-Build Competition

The Spitzer School’s B Arch student team has advanced to the finals of the APT-PETC (Association for Preservation Technology) Design-Build competition, a hands-on challenge relating to historic buildings and structures. Undergraduate students Tamar Plotzker (4th year), Xiao Lin Wang (4th year), Danielle Ryba (3rd year), and Abram Morris (2nd year) have been working together on this since Spring 2021, under the guidance and leadership of Prof. Mohammad Bolhassani. Their entry was based on City Hall Station, one of New York City’s original subway stations, which represented the technological advancement, pride, and grandeur of the growing city in the early 1900s. Renowned Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino designed the interior vaults.

Through research and physical practice, the team gained an understanding of City Hall Station, masonry construction, and the development of cohesive construction. The International Masonry Institute in Long Island City graciously hosted the “build” aspect of the competition: an in-person building of a scaled-down tile arch. At IMI the students cut the formwork, mixed plaster and mortar, and laid the bricks, all while adhering to COVID precautions and other safety measures. Building the arch took two full days. Once the arch had cured, they were able to test it by applying bags of cement on it. The maximum recorded load was 1,350lbs, but the team speculates the arch could have held even more had the loading been planned more carefully.

“The design process began with an understanding of load paths on arches, and the efficiency of the catenary curve. We designed the arch using Rhino and GeoGebra, both programs we have been introduced to in Structures,” according to team captain Tamar Plotzker. “Each step of this competition has reinforced and ingrained in us a deep understanding of not only an arch, but all the architectural concepts contained within it (stability, load paths, geometry, material straight, material know-how, craftmanship, etc.). “

In preparation for the final round, the team is working to revise their paper and build a durable “dry-stack” arch. In late October, they will be they will present what they have learned at a conference, when the competition will conclude.