Why Was I Not Made of Stone Like Thee?

One of the highlights of Charles Laughton’s moving performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) comes at the end of the film. Lovelorn for Esmerelda, Quasimodo asks one of Notre Dame’s famed gargoyles, “Why was I not made of stone like thee?” Broken hearts aside, we can relate: our restoration practice requires—and fosters—architectural empathy, a sensitivity for the inherent quality of materials and the value of historic fabric.

A Haunting Question: What Makes a Gargoyle a Gargoyle?

Throughout the city, SUPERSTRUCTURES has encountered some surprising and sinister figures glaring down from parapets and facades. And not just on Halloween, but every day of the year. They menace our team with leering looks wrought in terra cotta, cast iron, and stone. The culprits? Gargoyles and grotesques. Whether whimsical or diabolical, these characters have a long history of inhabiting buildings—from medieval cathedrals to contemporary nods to pop culture.

New Life for Brutalist Buildings

Love it or loathe it, Brutalism is here to stay. Brutalist buildings have been derided for their “soulless” aesthetics (think gray Soviet-era edifices), but that doesn’t mean they have to be relegated to a dark chapter in architectural history that’s best forgotten. A leader in concrete and masonry restoration, SUPERSTRUCTURES has worked on a number of Brutalist-influenced buildings and these projects highlight the expertise necessary to preserve these “ugly ducklings” of Modernism.

Omrania: GCC Headquarters

In designing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) headquarters complex in Riyadh, Omrania faced a familiar challenge: How to honor Islamic architecture through a modern vocabulary that transcends tradition. Equally paramount was the Council’s charter to support “common characteristics and similar systems founded on the creed of Islam.” In keeping with the project’s lofty ideals and prestigious diplomatic function, Omrania designed the complex as a unified expression of the architecture of the six countries of the Gulf.

Transcending Tradition: Tuwaiq Palace, 20 Years After the Aga Khan Award

Like other Aga Khan award winners, Omrania's Tuwaiq Palace stood out because it transcended the constraints of its brief, giving both the competition and the award jury panels something surprising. In this case, the surprise was in the building’s strong reference to two vernacular elements — the desert fortress and the Bedouin tent — transformed through a sophisticated synthesis that made “false neo-orientalism” irrelevant.

Frank Lloyd Wright: Art Glass of the Martin House Complex

When Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed the Darwin D. Martin House complex (1903-1905), he filled the windows, doors, skylights, and laylights with nearly four hundred pieces of his signature art glass. The spectacular designs, abstractions of the architecture and surrounding environment, are among some of Wright's finest. These "light screens," as Wright called them, were fundamental to his principle of "bringing the outside in" by blurring the line between enclosed and open spaces.

Usonian To Go

Wright likened his buildings to living things in various ways: he said an organic building should appear to grow "out of the ground and into the light" like a tree; he conceived his buildings with the forms, textures and palette of the natural world; and, like plants and animals, Wright's buildings weren't intended to live forever, as any owner or caretaker of the architect's work will attest. However, unlike many living things, I don't think Wright intended for his buildings to move.

In Pursuit of Appropriate Partnership

The buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright are not immune to the social and environmental forces that affect all architecture. Because of the popular recognition and historical significance of his work, however, the stakes are unusually high when his buildings are modified in any way. Any additions or changes must meet the highest standards; how exactly this can be achieved is the debate that fuels this compelling new book. The essays collected here are authored by many of the top professionals in the

Framing the Hearth: Wright's Fireplace Surrounds

Fireplaces were prominent in Frank Lloyd Wright's houses, from the bootleg designs made while he was employed by Louis Sullivan, to the Usonian homes of his late career. More than focal points in Wright's plans, fireplaces were the beating hearts of his house-as-metaphor of domesticity. Accordingly, Wright's designs for mantels and fireplace surrounds offer a microcosm of larger trends in his design development--trends that, at least on the whole, run from ornate to abstract and from superficial to integral. If the spaces within are indeed the reality of Wright's houses, then the focal points of these interiors must be the essence of that reality.