Architectural Precast Concrete Wall Panels: Their Technological Evolution, Significance, and Preservation

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cast stone
concrete masonry units
American Concrete Institute
Precast/Prestresse d Concrete Institute
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Architectural precast concrete wall panels played an important role in mid-twentieth century architecture by providing a concrete technology that could be applied to the curtain wall system of construction utilized in this time period. Moreover, the precasting process, which enabled the controlled production of expressive facing concrete mixes and surface treatments and finishes, made this a concrete technology that could contribute to the architectural expression of the building. To promote the preservation of these panels, this thesis investigates and illuminates their historical and architectural significance in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. There are, however, numerous technical challenges to the physical preservation of architectural precast wall panels, the most significant of which is due to their specially designed concrete mix and surface finish. Given the importance of preserving these characteristics, the general retroactive preservation action of applying patches to deteriorated concrete is unsatisfactory; instead, we must adopt a preventive approach. Towards this end, this thesis examines documents published in the United States between 1945 and 1975 that informed the design, production, and assembly of architectural precast wall panels. The information from these documents is used to trace the technological evolution of these panels and, ultimately, to identify potential material vulnerabilities and associated deterioration mechanisms to which they may be subject. This methodology provides foundational information to be used in the creation of preventive conservation plans for buildings constructed with this concrete technology.

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Suggested Citation: Meloy, Grace (2016). Architectural Precast Concrete Wall Panels: Their Technological Evolution, Significance, and Preservation. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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