architects do not have x-ray vision


Yes, I’m thinking about something today. If you don’t know me, I am an architect whose firm focuses on adaptive reuse. I’ve been fortunate to have been commissioned to renovate, dare I say rehabilitate many properties in my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. I live in the city and frequently take on projects in the downtown area. After many years and many projects, I believe I can say I know how to handle them.

This sets up a lively conversation at times as we seemingly battle between the big cost of renovating neglected properties and the safety demanded by building codes. One’s opinion of an appropriate degree of safety is linked to whether they’re responsible to pay the tab. It’s a quirky situation that often lands me as being over-zealous. It’s funny, printed words are not that difficult to interpret and I can cite every section to back up my conclusions.


As we’re in the midst of a current project, a series of insensitive additions from many decades ago are obscuring the original facade, yet it’s seemingly impossible to determine the extant remnants, how they’ll affect renovations plans and whether the big reveal upon demolition will unmask an unpleasant surprise.


I had to stretch to get this shot.

What do I do? I dig as deep as I can or as far as the client will permit to understand what is behind the mask when local regulations within the historic district will not permit facade demo until a building permit is in hand. See rules were made for rule-breakers, so those who balk should take up the issue with those that are irresponsible property owners.


I wonder what was here to allow the curving plaster.

Here are some photos from Thursday’s find and my sketch I created while precariously balancing on the upper rungs of an 8′-0″ step ladder. You see, we don’t spend our days behind a computer screen or coloring pretty pictures. Some days, we get dirty. I love this part knowing that a year from now, we’ll be celebrating another rescued property.


What do you think? I’ll be in my office today searching for facade design solutions.


architects do not have x-ray vision

5 thoughts on “architects do not have x-ray vision

    1. The last photo is a cornice piece from a “tin” or metal ceiling. However, I’m wondering if there is something ornamental as you suggest on the other side of the steel beams that span across the facade.

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