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  Glacier Blue® Architectural Topics & News     
          Monthly Newsletter
November 2011
In This Issue


Topic of the Month: The Restoration of a WPA Post Office & Federal Building

Architectural Firm of the Month: Architura

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Devonian_Bank_NYC_interiorWelcome to the November issue of our newsletter! In each issue we present you with informative articles about the various projects architects and designers are working on around the country. If you have a project you would like to share with us, please contact us and tell us about it. If chosen, we will feature your project in one of our upcoming issues of this newsletter. Click here to find out more about us.

Architectural Firm of the Month: Architura
Architura 1Located in the 1929 Circle Tower Building overlooking beautiful Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, Architura began a tradition of design-focused architecture when founded in 2000. Architect principals Michael Conly and Charles Kotterman have more than 65 years of combined commercial and institutional professional architectural experience and are aided by an accomplished team of registered architects and design staff.

Architura is a corporate, institutional, commercial and human services architectural practice. Expertise is provided in historic, religious, educational, industrial and health care facilities. Utilizing the most current, customized electronic technology to implement design, communications, contractual and legal documents, the firm's mission is to provide design excellence and quality products with an emphasis on personal services delivered with integrity, knowledge and skill.

The firm
is licensed to practice architecture in over 20 different states, including California, Florida, the east coast, and the midwest.   

For more information visit:

Topic of the Month: The Restoration of a WPA Post Office & Federal Building    

Architura 2Built in 1934, the Terre Haute Post Office and Federal Building in Terre Haute, Indiana is a three-story structure designed by architects Miller & Yeager and was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The building has recently undergone a massive renovation led by architect Michael Conly, Principal at Architura in Indianapolis, IN, who was kind enough to speak with us about the project.

Conly explains, "We were hired by the General Services Administration to do a complete renovation of the main gallery, which is a long, two-story hallway. We replaced all of the windows in the building with thermal glazed windows, restored light fixtures, and rebuilt historic light fixtures that were there at a much earlier time. When we first looked at the building, there were fluorescent lamps from the 1950's hanging down, much like the kind of lamps you might see in a bus station, so we actually recreated the original historic light fixtures. We hired a firm who did custom cast moldings of cast aluminum to create the shapes of all the lamps and light fixtures. Eventually each tall replicated light fixture in the main gallery cost about ten thousand dollars. The presence of the newly created historic fixtures created the intent of the architectural design."

The present building was originally home to the post office, the Social Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the federal court. Conly explains, "An Indiana artist named Frederick Webb Ross who had moved to New York City was hired to do a very large mural of the signing of the Magna Carta for the federal courtroom." The mural measures 20' x 20'. The artist painted the mural in his studio in New York and shipped it back to Terre Haute in pieces, where it was reassembled and mounted on the courtroom wall.

Conly continues, "We restored the paint on the ceiling of the main gallery, based on colors that were originally used in that space. With the help of a historic paint consultant who used thermal photography, we removed paint layer by layer to reveal the original colors on the walls. Some of the colors were used to emphasize the arched ceilings. We saved the original tables and some of the lock boxes that were used in the original building. We also restored the interior of the elevator by re-designing the elevator cabs with custom hardwood and metal to be like they were originally designed. We replaced most of the windows on the exterior with new panes of thermal glass. All of the window frames were custom aluminum. We took those frames and glass apart, worked with the window manufacturer and created a way to make glass double glazed so that they could have the thermal characteristics. We then reassembled the frames so that they were exactly like the historic frames that were there originally."

"We also worked on the exterior stone masonry. The exterior of this building is fairly flat so it didn't require a lot of reconstruction. Most of the stone was in good shape, it just needed to be cleaned. Before cleaning it was hard to see what it might have looked like originally, because it was filthy with coal smoke from the 1930's and the 1940's. We used a historic type cleaner that doesn't sandblast the stone so it doesn't damage the stone surface. Instead, the cleaner takes off the soil very gradually with a lot of water cascading across the surface of the stone over long periods of time to clean all the dirt off without destroying the surface. That's important because if you destroy the surface of the stone, as soon as it gets wet and it freezes in the winter, the stone will crack and break."

"We added some landscape on the exterior. There wasn't much room between the sidewalk and the front of the building, so the exterior lights were installed in such a way to be a very subdued effect, emphasizing the column pattern along the face of the building."

"I think the biggest challenge with any restoration project may be initially getting the budget approved to do the project. Sometimes that falls in the hands of politicians and sometimes in the hands of building owners who want to say something more about the building than to just keep it clean. In this case, one of our senators had set aside some money from the federal government budget to fund the historic restoration part of the project. When you have a limited budget, you try to figure out what are the most important things to do, since you can't clean everything, you can't repair every stairway, and you can't repair every room. We decided that the most public spaces would be where we would work first, and we worked our way from there to the exterior of the building."

"Sometimes the work crew may start out thinking this is an average job, but as they get involved in the job they really become more mindful of how important this is and they actually bend over backwards trying to do things the best way possible. That goes all the way from the person who puts in the lighting, to the person who grinds the floor finish to expose the original marble and terrazzo, to the people who repair the hardware such as the locks on doors. I think one of the other challenges is that so much of the design decisions and the careful guidance of doing the project correctly are done while the project is under construction. In architecture, we often draw up plans with instructions on what to do, then give it to contractors to bid, and then we look at the construction in progress as we go through the work. In historic work, we have to spend a lot more time in meetings with contractors, making changes as we move along through construction and restoration to make improvements. Sometimes we'll uncover something that was totally different than what we thought. Sometimes we have to take a wall apart only to encounter wires and pipes not shown in old plans that all need to be corrected."

Restoration work often comes with the great task to find out what the original structure looked like, but in the case of the Terre Haute Post Office and Federal Building, this was not a problem, for the most part. Conly explains, "There were some nice drawings available to us of the original building. We examined most of the original blueprints and we actually archived the drawings and prepared them to send to the National Archives because the drawings were so nice. There were full-sized drawings of a wall panel that had custom patterns to it, which is really unusual to find. That was a great help in making the job easier. On the other hand, the light fixtures that were in the long gallery didn't exist. There were no drawings for those. There were other fixtures similar to those, and we used the dimensions and the shapes of those fixtures to recreate the light fixtures in the main gallery. Recreating new light fixtures took more than a little effort. A lot of effort was also spent field-measuring, when we had to take a portion of the building apart to see what was underneath. If something was not working, we had to explore it, peel parts of the roof back, or peel parts of old brick siding off and find out what the building was like underneath. To find the original paint colors we had to have a crew up on scaffolds for a period of two or three weeks peeling paint layers back to find out what those original paint colors were. It's kind of like "building archaeology"."

According to Conly, the building's new look after its extensive restoration is appreciated by both those who were involved in the process and those who visit the building and enjoy it as a piece of history. "Sometimes the people who don't work on the building don't understand exactly why we're doing what we're doing at first, but once they do understand, they see it as a really interesting and tangible part of history and take great pride in it. Most of the people who either live or work in historic buildings really appreciate the history."

Architura is managing and administrating the design and construction of the upper floors of the building which will become Indiana State University's new College of Business. The University plans to occupy the spaces for the Fall 2012 semester.


Helpful Links for Architects

AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community

The AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community provides leadership and expertise to practitioners of interior architecture and design, working cooperatively with its members and other interiors organizations to address relevant, timely practice issues, markets, and trends, such as licensing, liability, environmental, and technological considerations. Through the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, important links are maintained with allied professionals, service providers, and manufacturers. If you wish to become a member of the AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, call AIA Member Services at 800-242-3837, or visit: 


Architect Online's Continuing Education Center

Architect Online's Online Continuing Education Center gives professionals a convenient way to earn necessary continuing education credits without having to set foot in a classroom. The courses listed, sponsored by the companies noted, are accessible from anywhere you can establish an online connection. Just register, read the required material, and then take the test, either through a downloadable mail-in form, or free via a secure online connection, depending on the course. You'll be able to maintain your professional credentials, at your pace, and at a location that works for you. Visit: 



Architectural Record Continuing Education Center

Architectural Record magazine has a free Continuing Education Center where architects can earn AIA Continuing Education Credits online. Visit:

Architectural Record Discussion Forums

The McGraw Hill Construction Community, publisher of Architectural Record, has provided architects with a forum to express ideas, opinions, suggestions, and gripes. The discussion forums are open to all, and include topics such as Green Building Projects, Virtual Design, Practice Matters and a forum for younger architects. Visit:

CORA - Congress of Residential Architecture  

CORA is a grass root organization that encourages our members to participate in the dialog of improving residential architecture in a way that suits them best. The purpose of the CORA is to provide a continuing forum for advocating and enhancing residential architecture by all individuals, both professionals and non-professionals, that share a common interest in improving the quality of the homes and communities we live in. Visit:

The Green Meeting Industry Council

The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) is a non profit 501(c)(6) membership-based organization. Their goal is to encourage collaboration within the meetings industry toward the development of green standards that will improve the environmental performance of meetings and events on a global basis. The GMIC is the only professional green meetings organization that is a member of the Convention Industry Council. For more information visit: 


The World Architecture Community
The World Architecture Community invites all architects to create a free profile on their website. The World Architecture Portal is a unique comprehensive international directory and catalog of contemporary architecture where all architects, scholars and institutions may submit their work and links to share with colleagues from around the world.
For more information visit:

We hope you enjoyed our informative monthly e-newsletter. For questions, comments or more information, please e-mail or call us today.



Liz Benton, Editor 
Glacier Blue® Architectural Topics & News
Devonian Stone of New York, Inc.

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