The RED Letter
RED Engineering & Design
Structural Engineers
            November 2014
English naval architects and engineers were the finest in the world in the 17th century. Above is an illustration of The Arbella; the first British ship to ferry Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans to America in 1630.


November brings to mind two things: voting and Thanksgiving. In America these two things are seemingly inextricably intertwined. If it were not for Puritan leaders such as John Winthrop (first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony), Hugh Peter (a Harvard founder), and Sir Richard Saltonstall (responsible for colonizing Connecticut) many of us Americans may not be here, today. It was their pursuit of religious freedom that drove them to American shores in 1630. Then, as our colonies grew and history took its course, 146 years later the United States was born giving Americans "freedom from tyranny" and the right to vote. So, here's to the freedom to vote and giving thanks to living and working in America.


Thinking about our British cousins "across the pond," architects and engineers have been working on a revitalization project named Battersea. Not without controversy, this is an enormous project spanning 42 acres on the River Thames in London. When complete, the mixed use project will house almost 4,000 apartments, more than 250 shops and restaurants in addition to recreational facilities and a riverside park. 

Artist rendering of Battersea when complete 

Battersea was originally an electric power station opulently built in the 1930s by the London Power Company. The London Power Company hired the most talented architects and engineers and no expense was spared including walls lined with enormous slabs of the highest grade Italian marble and an Art Deco ceiling that shimmered and glowed in up-lighting in the existing main hall. Exquisite parquet floors remain and are being included in the design. It was last used for its original purpose in 1983 with the advent of cleaner and cheaper energy sources.


For those students of history, one may wonder why the powers-that-be at the London Power Company spent so lavishly on a power station project-especially in the 1930s during a global economic depression. First, they wanted to allay Londoners' fears that this four chimney (each 338 ft. tall), coal-fired plant would not be a blemish on the City of London's landscape. (Special wash-towers were designed beside each chimney tower to rinse sulphur from coal-fire emissions before they were belched out into London's fog.) Second, Battersea provided one fifth of London's electricity and The London Power Company wanted it to be symbolic of Britain's strength and ambition.

Battersea under reconstruction (Ghetty Images) 

 As the revitalization moves along, today, Battersea architects and engineers are preserving as much of the past as they can while incorporating leading-edge materials and design techniques to transform the site into a thriving live, work, and play destination for Londoners and others around the globe. Adjacent to Battersea's monolithic structure, American architect, Frank Ghery was commissioned to design two apartment building reflecting one of his signature futuristic designs. What would the Puritans think?

Ghery-designed apartment buildings at Battersea (Ghery Partners LLP) 
Structural Design in Pilgrim Times 
Considering Frank Ghery and what the Purtains may think about his design, they, themselves, had some interesting designs they brought to this country. Take for instance the Downing-Bradstreet house formerly located in Salem, Massachusetts. Known at the time to be the finest house in America, its design was considered a gabled box.

The Downing-Bradstreet house had three front gables and double windows with two columns of leaded glass in diamond-shaped panes on either side of the front door. Big lanterns were hung inside the columns of glass during times of festivity. The house also contained two massive chimney stacks. According to Salem, Massachusetts, records at the time, the house contained a "great" room, a "great" entry, "great" stairs and a "great" chamber.


Downing-Bradstreet House, Salem, Massachusetts 
Gabled box houses resembled houses of "lesser gentry" in the East Anglia region of Britain from where the early Puritains emigrated. In America, these houses were enlarged by adding roof gables and wings without regard to symmetry. The result was houses with complex roof lines and complicated structural design.


Interestingly, the Downing-Bradstreet house originally belonged to Hugh Peter (a founder of Harvard). Deciding to return to England, he sold the house to "Mr. Downing of Essex Street." The house was conveyed to his daughter as part of her dowry. Ann married Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor Simon Bradstreet and the house became known as the Downing-Bradstreet house. Built circa 1642 the house remained as a family home for 71 years and then became a tavern until 1753 when it was razed by its owners.

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November 4, 2014
Election Day

November 27, 2014
Thanksgiving Day

Red Engineering & Design
wishes our clients and friends a
Happy Thanksgiving!
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