S/wing illeetillg 1940

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AN ARCHITECT REVIEWS FIVE YEARS WITH ARCHITECTURAL CONCRETE
By N W. OVERSTREET*, A. I. A., and A. J. BOASE**

UO,V , S S,iN ',v,ear,s g ;> ,J,"ebr,uar y, t.he term "architec,tural was comedo SIN years this month M R.concreteE,': data for the afirst, inissue ofagoARClIITECTUJLVL started out to compile the CON CRETE.
I

\Vhen it was put together I found I didn't have a single story outside of California. J wired here and there but could pick up nothing on the drawing boards east of the Rockv Mountains,

Only six years have passed and if they never build another building of architectural concrete east of the Rockies, we have enough stories to run that magazine for four solid years and then have to turn down some of the architects that now send us their material voluntarily. \Ve can't say that all of the new buildings in the United States are of architectural concrete but we can say that we have made reasonable progress.
During that time there has been one architect who seemed to be getting the "feel" of concrete in buildings a little better than most of them. That was Mr. N. \V. Overstreet of Jackson, Miss. Mr. Overstreet is a good old farm boy from the state oflVlississippi. He was born and raised there and went to school through the eighth grade and then, like some of the rest of us, had to quit school. He became a carpenter. Later on, Iwing fired with ambition, he signed up at what is now Mississippi State College, then known as Mississippi A, & M. College and graduated in the regulation time as an engineer. lIe made such an outstanding record at that college that he was given a scholarship at the University of Illinois. He attended the architectural school there and in clue time was graduated as an architect. After graduatiou he was employed in Illinois and in the North for three or four years and then moved back to Jackson. established his office there in 1912 and has practiced architecture there ever smce. There seems to he a difTerence of opinion as to why Mr. (herstreet moved hack South. \Vhen I inquired about it some of them said it was hecauselVlississippi is the best flshing state in the Union

* Architect, Jackson. M'is« ** Manager. Structura l Bureau.

F'CA,

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Portland Cement Association

and that lVl r. Overstreet was the best fisherman. He is one of these fishermen that grabs a rod in one hand and a frying pan in the other and he cooks them where he gets them. Mr. Overstreet, as a matter of fact, is famous throughout the South for his ability to cook fish. Be it said to 1\lr. Overstreet's everlasting credit that at least 50 per cent of the men practicing architecture today in Louisiana and Mississippi have either been under his tutelage or in his employ and those gentlemen refer to Mr. Overstreet as theDean and look to him for leadership. FIe introduced into the South modern and functional architecture, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't know traditional and classical architecture. As a matter of fact, he has used them both many, many

Mr. Overstreet uses ornamentation sparingly, relying more on line and mass to express his general theme, as illustrated by the Tupelo, Miss., Elementary School.

times in the field. In recent years he has introduced and probably developed architectural concrete further than anv other man in the South.
(Mr. 130ase then showed on lantern slides and described briefly the three following structures, selected from among the many outstanding jobs byl'vIr. Overstreet. Tupelov Vliss., elementary school: Bailey School, Jackson, Miss.: Columbia, High School. As lVI r. Boase completed showing of the slides,Mr. Overstreet came to the platforrn.)
MR. ()VERSTREET: When I was notified that I had been selected I said "I\ 0, sir, 1 don't want to appear before an audience. I am an architect. I get nerved up.' But I finally agreed to be here. think more of cement since I have seen you fellows, this representa-

Spring
tion of intelligent and fine lcJoking men. l wish to goodness l had a cement post and reinforced at that, to hold me while I talk.
MR. BOASE: .Mr. Overstreet, when did you design your first architectural concrete job?

The architectural effects possible by skilful handling of concrete masses are illustrated in the Edward L. Bailey School at Jackson, Miss.

l\I R.
;\lR.

OVERSTREET: BOASE:

w-n,

lVlr.Boase. about 1934.

Flow man v have you built since then? vVe have built about 20.

MR. OVERSTREET: MR. BOASE:

Twenty buildings?

Portland Cement Association NIx ()VERSTREET: School buildings, courthouses, some residences and some jails. Reinforced concrete of high compressive stress, around 3,600 lb., has practically revolutionized the design of jail buildings. Before we applied concrete to jail buildings the cells were lined with tool-proof steel, which was very expensive, and you know down in Mississippi we haven't much money. It is not a question of what you can do in architecture; it is a question of how economically you can design, save money and get your requirements within your appropriation, so we are always figuring some way to save a dollar and give our clients as much as possible. For jail building construction, using concrete of 3,600-lb. compressive strength and putting in steel rods, with tool-proof steel rods in small detention windows, that leaves only the cell doors to be fabricated with tool-proof steel. [don't know whether you fellows know or not, what a job it would be to go through 3,600-lb. concrete, get to these steel rods, break them and continue going on through. In my estimation, it is better than tool steel and certainly it is a whole lot cheaper. \Ve have built about seven jails. MR. BOASE: You told me one time that those buildings cost m the neighborhood of $2,000,000 and one of our boys figured up that if each architect in the United States had used each vear as much concrete as you have, the production of cement would have to be increased about one-third to take care of the architects alone. Mr. Overstreet. architects are always talking about an architectural medium. As I get that thing it is a material with which they can express their thoughts in the exterior of the building. In other words, as I sec it an architect is somewhat of an artist. He says, "I think I see" and then he builds a building and he wants me to see what he is thinking. Is that a correct definition of an architectural medium? MR. ()VI-:RSTREET: Yes, sir, it is, but a building must be fireproof, termite-proof, structurally SCJll11d and still be beautiful. Concrete lends itself to all of these requirements. MR. I\oAsE: Then Mr. Overstreet, would you say that architural concrete is a good medium ~ MR. ()VERSTREET: 1 will have to admit that before all these folks here. lVIR. BO,\SE: Now Mr. Overstreet, people have been used to stone and brick and terra cotta through the centuries. It always seemed to me when we started out to advertise architectural concrete that

S3
we had a little problem here because we had to make the layman realize that a building could be built out of concrete. Therefore, we carried some ads in such magazines as Time, 13l1sillCSS ~Vcck and Fortunc. IJo you think that those ads helped you overcome the hurdle with your clients? MR. ()VERSTREET: \Vithout a doubt! These ads of vours in the papers of national circulation have helped greatly. \Vhen readers see a picture of a building they seem to be interested in the architecture and if you have one that is appealing in your advertisement naturally they are attracted. I f the building is of concrete they are going to investigate and find out about it. 'fake for instance, a little ultra-modern type residence that we built for Chester Underwood which cost about $30.000 and which :,ou advertised. \Ve have had letters from all over the United States for that plan, and even from Hawaii and South America. It is surprising to me what those ads do. VVe started constructing our buildings with reinforced concrete footings, and we built our walls up just above grade of concrete. Then for our larger buildings for brick construction we developed the steel rein forced concrete frame, then filled the panels and veneered it with brick. Today we believe we need not fill in those panels with tile or hrick and then face them with stone or brick when concrete lends itself so admirably to a finish on a building and certainly gives more strength. NIL BO,\SE: Mr. Overstreet, if I understand it rightly there arc about 20,000 architects in the United States. I have always contended that they are the greatest material salesmen in the country. I suspect that when a client comes to you, you have to do considerable selling tel him to accept concrete for an exterior. A Iter you have sold him that idea and after you have constructed that building, is he satisfied with his buy? NIR. ()VERSTREET: Oh yes. At first we did have some difficulty in selling concrete. At that time it was called monolithic concrete. T had an interesting experience with the Bailey Junior IIigh School. There was no trouble selling the board of trustees or the school board. with the exception of one member. \Vhen we decided on concrete the brick manu facturer and the bricklayers' union and the labor paper put out the story that monolithic concrete was some kind of a special construction that Overstreet was interested in and probably getting something out of and would need some foreign bunch

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of fellows tCI come in and build. Thev didn't know what it was. \Ve had to put out a lot of in formation to counteract their efforts. I n building of architectural concrete, we made a better showing in the employment of carpenters and couuuon laborers than we could have on a brick building. .\t Columbia on a school job, the board of trustees was sold on concrete, but the miyor and board of aldermen weren't, so that job which amounted to about $130,000 had to be bid in both matcrial-. and concrete won by about $15,000. All jobs so far have demonstrated the cconornv of concrete.

Carefully designed and well executed curved facade of the auditorium of the Edward L. Bailey School.

I\ow we are building on a $350,000 school program at Vicksburg. on which we went through the same condition as at Columbia. The results were the same. I hope I don't have to draw any more double sets of plans to demonstrate to these folks that concrete is cheaper because it CClStS me monev. [don't make anv money as it is. MR. l\O,\SE: That has been a condition all over the country, but [ think it is a matter of pioneering and we can't expect to pioneer in a thing without meeting these obstacles. l have a feeling' that the resistance is breaking down. You know,Mr. Overstreet. when we started to advertise this stuffT went through all textbooks they use in various architectural

Spring Meeting 1940

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schools and 1 couldn't find a thing written on architectural concrete. As a result, we got up the architectural concrete data sheets.Flave they been of any use to you? 1)0 you use them? [VI R. ()VERSTREET: Oh yes, they have been very valuable. 'y' ou know the architect who practices his profession hasn't much time to do research work. I hope that you will continue to develop and put your findings ou record for architects and engineers. JYlILBoASE: Some architects sa v that it costs the architect more to design in architectural concrete than it does m some other medium. Does that check with your experience ~ lVIR. OVERSTREET: Well, it may, for this reason: \Vhen yclU go into architectural concrete it is necessary to design in reinforced concrete and that requires engineering skill and architects on other materials can design without this same skill. This is applicable to the small architect withont engineering know ledge. So some architects may hesitate to go into architectural concrete because it requires engineering ability. If you develop simple methods and details c)f construction for the architects' use the design problem is greatly simplified. lYlR.BoASE: [take that to heart fully. [know just what vou are talking about. IVl1'. Overstreet. when we first started out to put this stuff across, the cement industry wasn't willing to trust the run of mine contractor that you meet up with east of the Rocky:V10untains who has always don« structural work. Thev could build the frame of a building where it could be covered up, but here is a job where the finished product comes directly from the form. This industry felt that it couldn't afford to let this material be man-bundled and it hired several men from California, none of whom had less than fifteen years' experience, as superintendents on this kind of construction. Have vou had occasion to use those men and how have they functioned for you? MR. ()VERSTREET: Contractors at the beginning were skeptical 0 f fi.guring on architectural concrete buildings. They were afraid of them. But now, because of the help 0 f your superintendents, the contractors have become interested in this type of work and they ha ve taken a pride in it and you ought to see those superintendents get on the job. They are getting results and giving satisfaction everywhere. MR. 1>'OASE :lYl1'. Overstreet, when we started, 1 had hopes that if we could get contractors that could do architectural concrete and usc the care that is necessary to get the finish they want, that when

Portland Cement Association.
they got onto an ordinary structural job such as a retaining wall or frame of a building, the care they had learned on architectural concrete would follow through. Have you had occasion to notice any tendency to that? NJR. OVERSTREET: Oh yes, that is true, MR. I"oAsE: Do you think you are getting better structural work too because of that experience? MR. ()VERSTREET: I have that feeling.

Long windows, curved returns, massive entrances, all carefully composed, attest to the designer's skill and knowledge of concrete. Columbia, Miss., High School.

MR. BOASE : 'Nell. we have some troubles with architectural concrete. \Ve know that one of the things that some architects complain about is a lack of uni formity of color on the face of a building. Some architects want that. 1 find that a few architects will say "\V ell. that gives spirit to the thing: it life to that wall." What do you think about that? J\IR. ()vEHsrREET: I remember when we used to use face brick. that we wanted all the brick the same color. About the time I started out the trend was to see how much variation we could make in these brick and how rough they could be. A play of shadow on the surface in the sunlight made the surface interesting, and the same thing would apply to concrete. A variation in the shade of color makes the surface more interesting than if it was all one shade.

Spring iVIeeiing

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That is applied everywhere you look, l.n your stone buildings around here you will notice a variation of color and also of texture, lt is uni versally so, and of cou rse the same thing applies to concrete surfaces,
lVIR, 13CL\SE: Now the other disease is that of cracking-, IvIR, ()VERS'l'REET: You are not bringing that up? MR, BC)AsE:Yes sir, ] want to trot it ont here. 1.et's be honest even though we may get fired. I think the Long 13each earthquake proved pretty definitely that cracks do not mean a thing structurally. [don't think they weakened those walls one bit. VVhat about the cracking from the architectural point of view? MR. ()VERSTREET: '[hat is a weakness of monolithic construction, not from an architectural standpoint of view-owe don't care about the cracks-but it is the layman that we arc trying to sell these concrete buildings to. All that propaganda that the bricklayers and the brick manufacturers put out about a cracked building-s-my goodness, that Bailey Junior lligh School has cracked all to pieces. [heard it everywhere 1 went for a long time. Then the government accepted the building as satisfactory. l don't suppose: we have designed a single building but that has had a few cracks in it and these cracks usually come in before we accept the building, but when 1 sell a concrete job I have that thoroughly understood with mv clients. [ say "Now these cracks are gomg to come into the building so if you accept architectural concrete 1 want you to be assured that we will have cracks because there is nothing that we have done yet to eliminate them." But 1 feel that we are going to eliminate cracks by future development and when we do that we have done a big job. [believe that Art Boase will devise some scheme or do some experimental work where it can be done. I was showing him large spaces in connection with this Bailey Junior Fligh School where from an engineering standpoint you would expect these cracks but we didn't have them at all. In some minor place they would show up-and 1 think your Association ought to do everything possible from an experimental standpoint to eliminate cracks. Cracking is the only thing against architectural concrete. \lVe have got to develop something to eliminate cracks or fill the cracks after they come in the concrete because cracking is the only thing in the world against concrete. MR. I30AsE: Mr. Overstreet. we have tried unsuccessfully to hire

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Portland Cement Association

Dr. Westergaard, Dr. Tirnotshenks and two or three other elasticians, to try to solve the problem of cracks in walls. At the present time and for two years we have had an investigation going on by means of models at M.LT. which is just now beginning to show some results and I feel with you. that we are going to lick the crack and I would rather prevent it than repair it.

The massive and strong handling of the beautiful entrance to the Columbia, Miss., High School gives a feeling of safety and strength.
lVIR. ()VERSTREET: For instance. here at the Columbia School. just want to bring this out-s-that building was built during January, February andlYlarch. ()f course. you know we don't have rnuch freezing weather down there. \Ve did have some this year. but there is onlv one crack in that Colnmbia School and that is on the front right below a window. It appeared in three days. The thing to do is to study these buildings over periods and analyze them.

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lVIR. l\()ASE: M r. (lverstreet, at the present time we have 50 buildings under regular periodic observation. Assuming that the Byzantine type of architecture was developed to take advantage of terra cotta and the (;othic was invented to take advantage of a certain stone, do you think that concrete is applicable to any style of architecture? Don't you think it is going to come down to a question of dollars and cents in the final analysis? MR. OVERSTREET: Concrete is going to be applied to the modern type of architecture and 1 think the modern type of architecture is created in America for the American style. It is simple and from a utility standpoint, very applicable. The Classic will be passe. MR. BOASE: M r. Overstreet, it was very gracious of you to come here and give these gentlemen the benefit of your views. They aren't architects: neither am I and sometimes it gives us an entirely different slant if the man who is producing the material gets the viewpoint of the man who uses it. Thank you very much, sir.


CUAIR1\L\N lVlcARDLE continued further: Thank you, Mr. Overstreet. It was very nice of you to come here and tell us what an architect thinks of architectural concrete. Wherever there is transportation there is use for cement. Air transportation has been developing over a period of 25 or 30 years and it is getting to a point where even large numbers of men can be moved quickly to almost any spot. '[he development of landing fielrls for air transportation, both commercial and military, is a tremendous problem. Our next subject is "Airport Facilities fc)rF'resent and Future Requirements" and we arc indebted to or A. IL IVIClVlullen, chief of the Airport Section of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, for taking' time from his heavy duties to come here and tell us something about the present and future requirements of airports. IVlcMullen has been associated with air transportation for a quarter of a century. lIe was state director of aviation in Florida and during the three years he was there built 70 new airports and reconditioned 35 others. His present work qualifies him to tell us of the present and future requirements better than anyone I know of. It will be a pleasure to hear Major McMullen.

YOLo XXXIX

NO.1

PROCEEDINGS OF THE SPRING MEETING, 1940

THE WALDORF.ASTORIA - NEW YORK MAY 13, 14 and 15, 1940

PORTLAND CEMENT ASSOCIATION
33 WEST GRAND AYENUE CHICAGO, ILL.

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