Press room


April 12, 2011

OMNI awarded North American Copper in Architecture Award

OMNI Architects has been selected for a 2011 North American Copper in Architecture Award, by the Copper Development Association and the Canadian Copper & Brass Development Association.  This international award was given in recognition of the use of copper in the restoration of the landmark H.S.615 Chelsea Vocational High School.

H.S.615 was originally built in 1905 as P.S.38 under the architect Charles B.J. Snyder, then Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education.  When our firm was approached by the School Construction Authority (SCA) to prepare a scope of work, this 100-plus year old landmark building was exhibiting significant exterior damages resulting from years of water infiltration.

With the support of the SCA our firm was able to reintroduce the original copper cornice, which had been previously removed, to restore the historical integrity of this public school building.  The cornice had originally pitched towards the façade, and was likely an originating source of water infiltration.  The removal of the cornice appeared to have aggravated the condition, as the original embedded supporting steel was abandoned in place allowing for water to infiltrate at each penetration.  The structural integrity had become compromised and the 15 foot tall terra cotta and copper clad mansard parapet required replacement.

To reproduce the original copper detailing, our firm undertook substantial research to recover both the original 1905 design drawings, which were not clearly detailed, and archival photographs dating from 1906 and 1929.  Cornice profiles were carefully recreated using primarily a high-quality archival photograph from 1929.  Researching traditional methods of detailing and supporting copper cornices, we integrated historical techniques with contemporary practice, providing new structural steel framing and allowing for internal weeping, dielectric separation of materials, and designing to accommodate complex installation issues.  Carefully monitoring the installation during construction and collaborating closely with the contractors and the SCA throughout ensured the quality of the final product matched the design intent.  The contractors involved in the copper work (Technico Construction as G.C., R.Smith Restoration and B&B Sheet Metal as sub-contractors) were clearly proud of their work; this was reflected in the meticulous craftsmanship employed to replicate the original detailing.  Copper work includes cornices, integrated gutters and downspouts, vertical standing seam panels on the rear side of the 15 foot tall parapets, flashing, snow guards, water tables, coping, profiled ridge cap & epaulets, and scuppers.

The copper cornice and gutter system not only provides additional protection for the façade, but returns some grace and beauty to an inner city public school that was in urgent need of attention.

For more information, please visit the H.S.615 project page.