GSA United States Post Office Loop Station –Wall Panels
Circa 1973, Chicago, IL
Condition Prior to Conservation
In 1960, Congress authorized the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to construct a new office complex in Chicago’s bustling Loop District. With world-renown architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe serving as Chief Designer, the building’s creation brought together three legendary Chicago firms. Schmidt, Garden and Erickson, C.F. Murphy Associates, and A. Epstein and Sons all contributed. Completed in the early 1970’s, the building’s stark, utilitarian design is testament to van der Rohe’s vision. Damage to its interior wall panel, however, put that vision at risk. In an effort headed by Harboe Architects, LLC (a firm specializing in historic preservation), Bernacki & Associates performed conservation upon the wood panel interior. Four panels were specifically selected for their varying degrees of deterioration: severe abrasions, deep scratching and gouging, water damage and even nail holes.
Working on-site and under strict historical guidelines, analysis informed every move by Bernacki & Associates. The project was begun by reattaching delaminating veneer with reversible animal hide adhesive and filling nail holes. Dutchman veneers - matching the original – effectively infilled areas of loss. Deep gouging was found to contain previous applications of putty, which were cleaned out and refilled with solid walnut to achieve a proper, secure surface. Scratching, staining, and water damage – caused by years of simple, yet devastating human interaction - were dramatically minimized via hand-sanding. With application of a custom water-based stain, a conservation nearly as ambitious as the building itself was now complete.