The Great Imposter

The Great Imposter

The methods of digital fabrication of FRP lend themselves very readily to the creation of unique and unconventional shapes for contemporary architecture.  However, there is another side to FRP: the restoration or recreation of traditional architectural detailing.  Restoration of old or historical buildings often entails re-creating ornamental work – especially old stone work, that would be prohibitively expensive to fabricate now using the original materials and methods.  They can be fabricated cost effectively, however, using the same digital fabrication methods used to create elements for new designs.

The Marin Academy in San Rafael, CA took advantage of this strategy to replace an ornate entryway during a seismic upgrade of the building.  The original had wear and damage, but there was a string desire to preserve the tradition of this entryway.  The digital preservation and recreation was done by Kreysler and Associates of American Canyon, CA.

First, the original, hand-sculpted plaster façade was laser-scanned.  The scans were filed away and, for several years, the old structure underwent partial demolition and remodeling.

scanning the original entryway - Marin Academy

The scans of the old entry façade were enhanced by an artist to restore damage and refine worn details.  Areas on one side of the original entryway that had been damaged, for example, were restored in the model using mirror-image data from the other side.

From the restored model, molds were milled in urethane foam using CNC machines..  The particular foam is a material that enabled resins to be cast with a fine-grain, high-definition surface.

The new façade surrounding the door was cast as a one-piece element.  The structural FRP sandwich included flanges at the exterior edges that were used to attach the façade to the wall. After installation by general contractor Plant Builders, the flanges were concealed under stucco.

The workflow is in a sense circular.  From physical to digital through the laser scan.  From digital back around to physical via the computer-controlled sculpting of the molds, which are then the basis for the recreated FRP entryway.  It is not so dissimilar from the process used to create futuristic shapes that have never previously existed  anywhere outside the imagination.

Images courtesy of Kreysler & Associates