“How They Built It!” A Worship Series Exploring the Intersection of Passion and Opportunity.
A Brief History of Paul’s Life (Or How a Cowboy Ended Up as an Architect in Boston)
–By Paul Dudek
As a young boy being raised on a ranch in Alberta, Canada by an aunt and uncle, I could never, in my wildest imagination have predicted where my interests and abilities would take me. I loved the ranch life, riding out to round up cattle, mending fences and stacking hay for winter feeding. I thought I was headed for the cowboy life so how could I possibly end up designing building as an architect in Boston, MA.
Well there were a lot of geologists and paleontologists coming through the ranch to spend the summers in the mountains looking for oil bearing strata. Spending the summers in the mountains greatly appealed to me. My first summer job in high school was spent in the forestry swinging an axe, cleaning up downed timber caused by seismic crews exploring for oil. Another summer I worked as a roughneck on an oil rig drilling for oil, the hardest job physically I ever did. Finally I worked on seismic crew for a summer and a winter off the Alaska highway planting geophones in the ground to record the blasting waves bouncing off the subsurface strata.
So I was off to the University of British Columbia to major in geology with the goal of becoming a petroleum engineer/geologist. The first two years required courses from the arts and science departments. By my third year, my Aunt and Uncle had retired to Tucson Arizona and suggested I that I join them there, as the University of Arizona had a fine geology department. When I arrived at the University the fall of 1960 I looked through the university catalogue to see the courses offered. The courses in geology were not quite what I had expected with a lot of physics studying the behavior of materials under heat and pressure. But as I thumbed through the catalogue, by chance, I happened to look at the courses offered in the College of Architecture. Aptitude tests I had taken in high school had pointed to architecture because I scored very high in spatial manipulation. Well I discovered that the courses offered in the College of Architecture were what I had been doing for fun most of my life. On the ranch I had constructed things, I drew and painted and I built models of my uncles log ranch house.
The trajectory of my life’s endeavor was about to take a big u turn. I enrolled in the College of Architecture and from that day on I knew I was doing what I was meant to do and for me it was just plain fun. Upon graduation I worked in a small two-man office designing one story buildings starting with additions to schools and ending with a one story office building for the Tucson Teacher’s Association. I was able to do all the drawings for these projects by myself under the supervision of one of the partners. I got to wondering how large buildings were designed with a team of architects all working on the same building plans and coordinating with the structural, mechanical and electrical engineers.
So the next year I went to Chicago and got a job with the very large firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (a staff of 500). I was put on the 100 story John Hancock Building project. So I went from one story buildings to one, 100 story building. What a fascinating turn of events this proved to be. The whole team, architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers were all located in an open plan on one floor of the Carson Pirie and Scott building. This was not typical for most architectural firms or most architectural projects to assemble a whole design team in cluding the engineering disciplines in one space.
The John Hancock Building’s first five floors are devoted to commercial space, followed by six floors of parking followed by office space up to the 44th floor. The 44th floor to the 92nd floor is residential with the residential lobby and indoor swimming pool on the 44th floor. Above the residential floors are broadcasting stations and an observatory (94th) and restaurant (95th).
The structural system designed by Fazlur Khan, a Pakistani, was unique to high rise buildings. It features a steel frame with exterior steel X bracing that made the building able to handle wind loads extremely efficiently because the X bracing transfers wind loads around and down the building to all columns. It performs like a big tapered perforated tube. At the time buildings of 50 stories or more averaged about 55 pounds of steel per square foot of floor space. The John Hancock used just under 30 pounds of steel per square foot of floor space.
Sixty mile an hour winds would cause the building to sway from 5 to 8 inches. At the time no building in the world had residences that high above ground. There was concern that building’s sway would make people uneasy to say the least. Also there was no research available that would predict when people start to perceive movement. The structural engineer, Fazlur Khan, devised some tests with people on a moving platform at the museum of science and industry that would mimic the motion of the building on the upper floors. It was determined after tests that the sway would not be a problem.
The building’s steel frame was constructed by utilizing a derrick crane on each side of the building that would crawl up the building as floors were constructed. The foundation system supporting each of the columns consists of a 5 foot diameter concrete caisson that extends thru the soil down to bedrock 190 feet below. When the building was erected up to 20 stories, one of the caissons started settling. Construction was stopped. A core was taken down through the caisson to discover a void in the caisson. What had happened was that the concrete had stuck to the sides of the steel slip form as the form was moved up, leaving the void. As a result all of the columns concrete caissons were cored to determine if they were sound and they were.
An interesting fact is that at the time, the elevators were the fastest in the world at 1800 feet per minute. So a ride to the top of the building, or 1100 feet, would take just 36 seconds.
I decided that I would pursue a Master of Architecture degree to keep up with my peers and further my studies. Because MIT had a very interesting program, integrating all building systems in the design process, I applied there and had the good fortune of being awarded a fellowship. So then I had to look up to see where Cambridge, MA was.
Upon graduation from MIT and brief stint in the Planning Office I joined the Boston firm of Goody, Clancy & Assoicates, Architects, formed by two of my professors at MIT. Thirty four years with the firm and many projects later, ranging from university buildings, office buildings, courthouses, subway stations, and mixed income housing projects, I retired in 2007.
Probably the project I am most proud of is Tent City, a 269 unit residential project with two levels of below grade parking for 700 cars. Tent City is located on a site bounded by Dartmouth Street and Columbus Avenue and Yarmouth Street in Boston opposite Back Bay train station. 25% of the units are subsidized for low income, 50% for moderate income and 25% rented at market rate. Some of you may remember when this site was razed by the BRA for urban renewal, displacing residents of low and moderate income and was used as a large car park. The former residents of the site along with south end activist groups and Mel King occupied the site in tents to protest that the site be returned to housing and housing for former residents.
The BRA relented and the Tent City Corporation was formed and designated developers for the site to be used for mixed income housing that was to be racially and ethnically integrated. The housing would be constructed over two levels of below grade parking for Copley Place and Tent City Residents. Tent City Corporation hired Community Builders a non-profit organization as consultants and Goody Clancy as architects.
All the units are designed as market rate units. Subsidized units are sprinkled though out the buildings. Through unique financing that is innovative and sustainable and with good management the project has been a huge success.
In addition to winning various design awards, in 1995 Tent City won a World Habitat Award from World Habitat in partnership with UN Habitat.
While Pastor Doug was intrigued by my experience working on the design and construction of the John Hancock Building in Chicago, he was most interested in the igloos I constructed for my children and the neighborhood children. When snow conditions were just right and I could cut blocks of snow that would hold together, I constructed real igloos. My son’s class at Williams School took a field trip to see the igloo I had constructed the year of the great blizzard.