Newly renovated Billie Holiday Theatre reopens May 12th, 2017

We are proud to be a part of the team responsible for the renovation of the historic Billie Holiday Theatre. The theatre re-opened this past Friday night, May 12th, capping a six year process of design and construction.


The Billie Holiday Theatre, which first opened in 1972, has been a prominent part of the community for decades. CRAFT is very excited to have played a role in its renovation and expansion, allowing the theatre to maintain its historic significance while performing much needed updates and expansions to accommodate changing needs for future generations.


Structural design and consulting services were required for all renovation aspects including raising the floor, adding seating, and expanding the stage and surrounding stage access. The project was funded by the New York City Department of Design Construction (NYC DDC). CRAFT collaborated with the DDC, the Billie Holiday Theatre team and Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects.


Congratulations to the entire team involved in the renovation, making it possible for the historic theatre to continue its legacy in the community.


More information on the design and renovation can be found in Broadway World and the webpages of the NYC Department of Design and Construction and Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects.

Project Focus: Post-tensioned Concrete at Further Lane

East Hampton, New York
For a private residence in the Hamptons, the design of this signature lap pool is both a feat of imagination and engineering.


The pool, designed by Selldorf Architects, clear spans 75 feet across the ocean-view veranda, with a transparent acrylic bottom. Carrying 24,000 gallons of water, the structure of the span needed to resist an additional 200,000 lbs of dead load. With an infinity edge as a design imperative, the only option to achieve the span without deflection was post-tensioned concrete. 


The structure of the pool is comprised of two main post-tensioned girders on either side of the pool connected together with a series of post-tensioned link beams at the bottom of the pool which frame the acrylic panels. Each girder contained 26 bonded 1/2″ diameter draped tendons with each tendon requiring a tension of 33.5 kips. This was achieved with hydraulic jacks pulling at 7000 lbs of force and elongating the cables up to 6 5/8 inches over their 75 foot length. The process of post-tensioning created a slight camber in the beams which was offset by the weight of the added water to a level condition ideal for the infinity exterior edge. These construction images explain the sequence of post-tensioning the pool structure including the layout of the strands as well as the equipment used during the tensioning process. After curing, the pool was load tested to capacity with water to verify the exterior edge condition prior to the installation of the infinity edge.  

These construction images explain the sequence of post-tensioning the pool structure including the layout of the strands as well as the equipment used during the tensioning process. After curing, the pool was load tested to capacity with water to verify the exterior edge condition prior to the installation of the infinity edge.  

Image Credit: Men At Work Construction
Client: Selldorf Architects
Year: 2015

Structural Patterning and SMO Research

In response to interest in structural surface design for novel forms, CRAFT has been researching a two-pronged approach to its structural surface design—Section Modulus Optimization and Stress Patterning. After the initial steps of discretization and Finite Element Analysis, the goal is to use the data gathered as a parameter in the adjustment of surface properties. The two avenues explored in this study are local surface thicknesses and the patterning of structural reinforcement throughout the surface.

This was achieved in Grasshopper using Millipede and Karamba analysis engines. Illustrated here are Karamba’s Iso-Lines, paths between equal principal stresses across a shell structure. The contoured map tells a story similar to that of a topographical one, with increasing scalar values expressed in two dimensions. Below, a combination of Karamba’s Force Flow Lines, overlaid with a color-gradient Von Mises Stress map, illustrates multiple modes of stress representation. The Force Flow Lines, or load paths, map the distribution of loads over a shell, forming eddies in areas of ineffective force direction. Either of these line-mapping techniques could be implemented in the creation of a novel structural pattern.



By translating the scalar data from the Von Mises Stress map into vector data, the depth of the slab can be scaled using the local section modulus of each analysis element, in a process called Section Modulus Optimization (SMO). Holding the system stress at a uniform 3000 PSI and allowing the slab depth to vary from 6” to 24”, the solid result is calibrated to the architect’s formal ambition. 

CRAFT_15001_Modulus Optimization

Structural Patterning is nothing new. With the Pantheon, Apollodorus created one of the most enduring examples of structural expression — pictured here in partial section. Its ornamented coffers form a waffle slab which accents the enormous concrete dome, while decreasing weight. This language has remained untouched for almost 2000 years, while the lower sections have been remodeled with the fashions of the centuries that followed.

Pantheon Section
When building with concrete, or other plastic materials, the organization of the waffle slab ribs presents an exciting opportunity for novel Stress Patterning. Karamba and Millipede present beautiful options for mapping directions of principal stresses, load paths, and iso-lines of stress. The most structurally meaningful patterning utilized a scale field to adjust the density of ribs according to intensities of stress, yielding a field of expanding and contracting cells that could be expressed as concrete coffers.



Further development of stress-optimized structural patterning may combine Modulus Optimization and Stress Patterning to achieve an expressive and efficient system rendered in the most potentially plastic of construction materials.

Corning Museum of Glass – Breaking Glass Bleachers featured in Architect’s Newspaper

In 2014, CRAFT | Engineering Studio collaborated with Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects to design the CMoG The Breaking Glass Bleachers to add additional auditorium space to an underutilized corner of the museum. To integrate design and analysis for the highly customized structure, the team developed an iterative process using within the Grasshopper environment using Karamba 3d as a real time FEA solver. The project was recently featured recently in the Architect’s Newspaper.

Image Credit: Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects 

City Beach NYC featured online and in print


The City Beach NYC project has been featured in several articles in the past few months as news has began to leak out about its design. CRAFT’s Nathaniel Stanton SE was asked to describe his role in the project and some of the challenges that a structural engineer would encounter in designing a structure that floats.






City Beach NYC begins crowd funding

The City Beach NYC project is now up and running online, so be sure to add yourself to the contact list for the latest updates. The crowd funding campaign has also officially been kicked off on Indiegogo. There are a number of Perk Packages associated with your contribution that include private receptions, picnics and much more. CRAFT is proud to be part of the team and we are excited about City Beach coming to the shores of Manhattan.

Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame receives National AIA Award

Trahan Architects received the National AIA TAP Building Information Modeling Award for the use of BIM technology in the design process in the design of the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of fame. CRAFT teamed up with David Kufferman Structural Engineers and Method Design in collaboration with CASE to design and engineer the specialty structural steel framework that supports the undulating surfaces of dry cast concrete panels that weave their way through the museum.

Initial geometry of the specialty steel was woven into the main building structure using a series of scripts within grasshopper by Method Design while CASE rationalized and meshed the surfaces of the cast stone panels. CRAFT extracted the geometrical data out of grasshopper and into its analysis software using Geometry Gym, a plugin for grasshopper developed by John Mirtschin. CRAFT then created analytical models of the specialty steel as well as the building structural steel to better understand and control its behavior under a range of loading conditions.

The design of the specialty steel structure was then iteratively modified based on the analysis to reduce deflections and control load paths to minimize stresses in the connections to the cast concrete panels. Construction was completed in 2012 at a cost of $12.8 million.

Image Credit:  Method Design

Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame recognized on Archinect

The work of CRAFT | Engineering Studio was recently recognized in Archinect’s Showcase on the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame. CRAFT teamed up with David Kufferman Structural Engineers and Method Design in collaboration with CASE to design and engineer the specialty structural steel framework that supports the undulating surfaces of dry cast concrete panels that weave their way through the museum.  

Image Credit: Timothy Hursley

Innovate : Integrate Exhibition at New York Center for Architecture

The Innovate : Integrate – Building Better Together exhibit opened on October 6th at the Center for Architecture in New York. A big thank you to all the attendees and supporters! It was wonderful to share the Inhabitable Skin concept with such an interested and diverse audience. Special thanks to the contributors for donating valuable time, expertise, and resources to the development of materials and details as well as the full scale panel mockup, in particular Kreysler and AssociatesConstruction Solutions, Inc.Core Composites, and Grancrete, Inc.

We hope for the Inhabitable Skin to be a continuing dialogue between architects and engineers for a number of applications and will be further presenting the model at the upcoming Greenbuild Conference in Chicago. For interested parties from afar, below are some photos of the exhibit on display until January.

Inhabitable Skin

The Inhabitable Skin is an innovative exploration of materials and manufacturing processes that results in a three dimensional form that exists as an independent monocoque structural assembly. The formal expression of the skin is driven by the necessity of structure, environment and context, but ultimately it bends to the will of the designer who is capable of controlling it. The exciting prospect for a designer is the ability to explore form, but within a framework of definitive influences towards an architectural end. For the engineer, the Inhabitable Skin represents a revolution in structural morphology, an exploration of structural form not constrained by linear and planar elements but a combination of complex surfaces.


The concept of the Inhabitable Skin offers the potential to revitalize and re-energize densely populated urban centers. It focuses on existing masonry clad highrise buildings and takes advantage of the inherent strength of their structural systems. The Inhabitable Skin is a three dimensional lightweight composite cladding system that directly replaces the existing masonry veneer. The difference in self weight between the two systems represents the opportunity for inhabitation. In essence, the lightness of the composite skin allows for an extension of the floor plate to support additional live loading. The skin and floor extensions are fabricated with Polymer Matrix Composites and act together as an ultra efficient singular monocoque structure. The structural premise of the Inhabitable Skin relies on the reloading of the edges of the existing structural slabs in exactly the same manner as the masonry veneer that was removed. This allows the skin to act as a kind of cocoon that can be attached to the existing building’s exterior without relying on a separate supporting structure or adversely impacting the building’s existing gravity or lateral load resisting systems.

The opportunity for such an application in urban communities is surprisingly abundant. Each opportunity offers its unique set of influences to the visual character or language of the skin based on context, building orientation, materials, massing, etc. Some of the most evident opportunities exist on the facades of highrise buildings adjacent to much shorter buildings. In these cases, the existing building façade is limited by the potential of the shorter building to be replaced by much taller building. The façade is therefore unable to respond directly to its context but rather to its potential context. The Inhabitable Skin concept allows the building’s skin to operate on a shorter life cycle than the core of the building and therefore the building’s exterior can more dynamically react to its local conditions.

This current evolution of the concept focuses on masonry clad highrise buildings in Manhattan and suggests a formal response through a case study of an existing building located in midtown. This specific building was chosen because of its prominence in the midtown Manhattan skyline as well as the amount of masonry on its façade with a clear southern exposure. This coupled with the fact that it is a residential highrise building, offered a compelling scenario for intervention with some clear design influences and constraints. Below is a set of before and after images of the conceptual design for an Inhabitable Skin.


The form of the Inhabitable Skin in this case study is driven by the necessity to create a structurally cohesive form influenced by its environment. The direct southern exposure of the façade challenges the skin to respond as a passive solar shading device to reduce the thermal heat gain potential of direct sunlight into the interior spaces. Therefore, the symmetric forms of the skin on either side of the existing windows blocks early and late day sun and the rippling in the surface creates passive shading at each floor level for direct midday summer sun. The form of the Inhabitable Skin is constrained by the extents of brick masonry on the façade as well as the location of program on the interior of the building. The effectiveness of the solar shading as well as the creative freedom enabled by composite materials is evident in the rendering below. This specific skin design solution extends the floor plates up to 10 feet from the existing face of the building and adds more than 11,600 square feet of rentable floor area to 36 stories of an apartment building.

Polymer Matrix Composite materials have been around for many decades but concerns regarding their UV stability, fire resistance and sustainability have limited their impact on the building industry. This case study specifically addresses these issues through an innovative layering of materials. The composite structure of the panel is fabricated with a protective exterior coating of high density ceramic concrete as well as a lightweight fire resistant ceramic concrete interior coating. The layering of these materials to perform their individual but complementary tasks creates a highly efficient and lightweight system which reduces the overall energy footprint in fabrication, delivery and on site construction when compared to traditional methods of façade replacement.

This concept will be presented for the first time at the Innovate: Integrate – Building Better Together exhibition at the New York Center for Architecture. The exhibit opened on October 6th and runs until mid-January.