The retrofit of Manhattan’s historic 20-story U.S. Rubber Building would have been an insurmountable feat without the flexibility and efficiency of precast. The project, in part, was necessary to retrofit two floors for a new Nordstrom department store, while replacing the exterior façade to honor the building’s rich history.
The developer, architect CallisonRTKL and GATE Precast worked collaboratively in a design-assist partnership to create an architectural precast façade with a GATEStone marble finish in order to blend with the Vermont marble of the upper floors.
There were challenges along the way. First and foremost, the team needed the approval of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, requiring extensive public hearings that spanned several months. To facilitate the process, the project team provided original drawings of the 1912 façade alongside the proposed design to explain how the original proportions and forms would be retained with precast.
“Our project included gaining two floors for the client’s anticipated flagship store, while replacing the existing façade in manner that would honor the building’s past, while looking toward the future.”
– Michelle McCormick, CallisonRTKL
While the team was experienced with working with precast on previous projects, the complexity of the design required closed collaboration between CallisonRTKL and GATE. The precast supplier also produced full-size precast mockups of the cornice profiles and base with a partial physical submittal, and delivered it to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in person.
A great deal of time and attention was spent by Gate experimenting with techniques to produce a “marbled” effect on the cast stone, which was submitted to the client and CallisonRTKL, and ultimately, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for approval. To truly understand the forms, the architects transitioned from CAD drawings to 3D modeling.
“Every aspect of the job was a challenge. Our invaluable team of modelers, engineers and craftsmen eagerly embraced all of these challenges with passion and zeal. The result of their efforts was extraordinary.”
– Chris Cruze, Project Manager, Gate Precast, Ashland City, TN.
The project required intensive planning and coordination, research and development as there were extensive cornice and bullnose pieces, buildups on every piece and supplemental steel that was added to the existing riveted steel superstructure to accommodate precast loads and connections.
“To truly understand the forms being drawn, the architects transitioned from CAD drawings to 3D modeling. This gave the team, CallisonRTKL, Coffman Structural Engineers and Gate, a full view of the challenges ahead.”
– Michelle McCormick, CallisonRTKL
Ultimately, precast provided a modern solution to the classical Beaux Arts design. The project ultimately won the 2019 Sidney Freedman Craftsmanship award, which recognizes PCI-certified plants for excellence in manufacturing and craftsmanship of architectural precast concrete and Best Retail in the 2021 PCI Design Awards competition.
“Great attention to detail was needed with the forming, precast handling, shipping, and replicating the marble veining in the concrete mix. The craftsmanship replicated that of the original 100-year-old building,”
– Matt Graf, executive vice president of sales at International Concrete Products
and Sid Freedman Craftsmanship judge
New York, NY