Craftsmen showcase extraordinary skills in the Baltimore region
From installing the extraordinary systems needed to operate a state-of-the-art hospital to giving new life to irreplaceable pieces of art and architecture to creating a modern garden in the sky, winners of the 2022 BC&E Craftsmanship Awards channeled their expertise, creativity and dedication to produce outstanding results.
When a renovation plan at the Baltimore Museum of Art necessitated the temporary removal of the Franzoni Arch, craftsmen at Hilgartner Natural Stone realized the operation would require a massive effort and a delicate touch. The last-known work by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Franzoni had been created in four sections, each weighing 1,600 to 2,000 pounds. No records existed of how it was installed in the early 1970s so crews began a slow, surgical demolition of the load-bearing wall around the artwork to determine how it was anchored.
Once the anchoring system was revealed, Hilgartner confronted the next challenge, namely how to remove the arch.
“We needed to lift those pieces up in order to pull them out,” said Ian Davis, Project Manager. “But we only had 18 to 24 inches of clearance above the top of the arch to the bottom of the reinforced concrete joists in the ceiling above it. Also, there was so much temporary structural support built around that location plus scaffolding and rigging that we had to find a piece of equipment small enough to fit in a four- by eight-foot space that could lift those stone pieces.”
All of the crew’s work, including the removal of the arch, also had to stay within strict limits for generating vibration in the museum (that could harm artworks in the galleries above) and avoid any damage to the room’s original Beaver Dam marble floor. With museum officials observing, consulting on and occasionally recording their work, the crew deftly removed, stored and replaced the arch and met the very tight tolerance for the glass doors that would be installed beneath it.
At Kaiser Permanente’s new, state-of-the-art, 220,000-square-foot center in Baltimore County, the crew from J.F. Fischer Inc. faced an entirely different challenge. The center was designed to support 24-hour urgent care, a surgical center, 12 procedure rooms, services by 30 medical specialties and, ultimately, sufficient facilities to serve 175,000 patients each year. The design would require J.F. Fischer to complete extensive mechanical and plumbing installations, including sinks and medical gas lines in treatment rooms, more than 80 restrooms and multiple air handlers, cooling towers and energy recovery units. It would also require the crew to install a prefabricated Central Utility Plant (CUP).
“The plant was assembled off-site then split into four sections. In those sections were the pumps, chillers, boilers, electrical gear and pretty much everything needed to generate chilled air for cooling and hot water for heating,” said Jason Fischer, Project Manager.
While prefabricated CUPs are becoming more common, installing this CUP involved an extra challenge – site restrictions.
“This project put a lot of hospital on a small piece of real estate,” Fischer said.
Shoehorned in between Interstate 83 and railway tracks, the site left the J.F. Fischer crew operating within a 200-foot-wide strip as they prepared to install the CUP.
The required 550-ton crane “came in on about a dozen trucks and we needed a smaller crane to assemble it,” he said. “Then we had multiple loads to pick. As I recall, the heaviest was 46,000 pounds and it had to go six stories up into the air and over the top of the building to be placed on the roof. That created a lot of stress, a lot of sleepless nights.”
But ultimately, the installation went smoothly.
Several 2002 Craftsmanship Awards recognized excellence in working with some of Maryland’s most significant historic buildings.
At Hampton Mansion, a National Historic Site and one of the country’s finest existing examples of federalist architecture, the team from Worcester Eisenbrandt completed an immaculate restoration of the cupula. Craftsmen repaired, restored or fabricated replacement parts for the cupola’s rusticated wood base and elements of its cornice, columns and entablature. They created custom shaper knives to recreate the profile of each historic element and meticulously matched the grain lines of each piece as it was put back into place. They removed, repaired and restored the cupula’s eight, huge (four-foot by nine-foot) windows. With careful rigging, they also removed the cupula’s finial in order to restore its gold leaf coating.
“The guy who did that work literally is an artist. He is from Bulgaria where he has done gold leaf ceilings and a lot of religious objects,” said Rob Goldrick, Project Manager. “He worked with two-inch squares of gold leaf that are so thin and so very delicate. He layered them and burnished them so there are no seams visible. In the end, it was a work of art.”
At the Roland Park Water Tower, craftsmen from Worcester Eisenbrandt tackled a different array of restoration challenges. Built in 1910, the water tower was deemed obsolete in 1935 and fell into disuse and increasingly worsening decay. Tasked with completely cleaning and partially restoring the century-old tower, the crew dug into a list of daunting and sometimes unusual tasks. Trees that had sprouted and rooted in masonry joints had to be removed. At the plinth level, craftsmen cleaned granite, removed graffiti and repaired and recoated terra cotta elements. Inside the tower, members of the project team investigated options for dealing with a 10-foot-high beehive but ultimately decided the best course was to leave the honeybees alone.
“But the trickiest part of the work was at the top of the tower,” Goldrick said. That area had been open to wind, weather and local birds for decades and a pair of peregrine falcons had nested in the tower for years “so the place was filthy with feathers and waste and skeletons of mice and other small animals.”
The falcons, however, had become local celebrities so the cleaning and restoration of the top of the tower included the installation of discreet screening to close off external access with the exception of an entrance to a newly installed, German-made, peregrine falcon nesting box.
At Loyola Blakefield, craftsmen from Henry J. Knott Masonry blended historical and modern elements to create the Innovative Learning Center. A prominent addition, the center became the first building on campus to mix modern Arriscraft material with traditional Butler and cast stone. The design required craftsmen to cleanly combine different materials into a modern façade while also echoing the school’s traditional style. Masons hand-chiseled each stone to match the tight course bedding and bond of the school’s historic buildings which were constructed over 85 years ago.
Preparing, selecting and positioning stone to create that historic look was “a lot like playing chess. You always had to be thinking three moves ahead,” said Dave Contrino, Foreman and a six-time Craftsmanship winner. In addition, “I had to make sure that everybody was laying stone in pretty much the exact same way so that everything would blend. And if a return needed to be done a certain way, I would keep the same guy doing all of those returns.”
By contrast, craftsmen working on the Avalon Bay Harbor East site channeled their skills into creating a purely modern building. For Justin Jones, Production Manager at Live Green Landscape Associates, Avalon Bay was his first experience creating a garden on top of a skyscraper.
“I was lucky I was in good shape because the elevators weren’t working when we started moving materials onto the roofs so I was running up the stairs to the 24th floor,” Jones said.
Live Green was tasked with creating rooftop gardens in four locations – atop the 7th, 8th, 21st and 24th floors. The design called for a mix of groundcovers, flowers, shrubbery and hardscaping, befitting a high-end residence. But creating even a simple garden on a skyscraper’s roof posed major challenges. Landscaping materials – including plants, mulch, soil and pallets of pavers that weighed up to 3,000 pounds each – had to be delivered to rooftops as much as four to six months before landscaping crews could install them.
Consequently, Live Green staff had to ensure the storage of their material did not conflict with the work of other subcontractors and also protect those materials from construction damage, high winds, drying conditions and intense reflected heat (especially off the 16 stories above the 8th-floor roof).
Wind created a relentless challenge once installation began. To prevent materials from immediately blowing away, craftsmen had to secure each pot the instant they removed its plant, wet down all mulch as soon as it was laid and follow a strict process to hang onto sheets of insulating foam board “which essentially are just big kites,” Jones said. “It was a monumental task to keep materials from blowing away, but I didn’t want to add any more debris to the harbor. The trash wheel already has enough to do.”
In addition to mastering the project’s logistical challenges, the crew installed one unique feature, “the living tree,” Jones said. “It’s a special drainage system with plant material, sedum, that are planted in gravel and not removed from their pots. It slows rainwater running off the roof and the plants clean the water before it goes down into the harbor. We had to be specially trained to install it and the manufacturer had to certify that it was installed properly. Now the plants have filled in and created almost a carpet. It’s a very beautiful feature.”