The Hadrian, a 10-story apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side between Riverside and Central Parks, is not a grand structure by any means.
Indeed, the most notable feature of the unassuming 1903 building, which has over 40 units, is the elaborate ornamentation of its crowning cornice.
The fabrication of a replica cornice, by Ornametals Manufacturing, was part of a larger 2-year-long restoration project by the New York City-based architectural firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates that also included repointing the brick exterior and repairing brick, terra-cotta, limestone, and steel spandrels and replacing non-original stucco balcony brackets.
“There was very little left of the original cornice,” says Guenther Huber Delle, president of Ornametals Manufacturing. “The architect did the research and gave us detailed plans, based on historical photographs, that follow the original design.”
Although the original 220-foot cornice on The Hadrian was made of galvanized sheet steel and painted green to mimic the verdigris of copper, the replica is made of over 6,500 pounds of raw un-weathered copper. The panels are 24-ounce copper, and the ornamentation is up to 32-ounce copper.
“When the cornice was originally fabricated, material costs were high, and labor costs were low, which is why they didn’t use copper,” says Huber. “Today, the opposite is true, so it made sense to go with a material that will hold up for a century or so and that is maintenance-free.”
He notes that when the replica copper cornice ages and turns green, “it will provide a beautiful contrast to the light brick face.”
Ornametals, which has fabrication plants in Alabama, France, and Germany, used an unusual panel system to construct the cornice, whose under-frame is stainless steel.
“We’ve used this system in Europe, but it’s the first time we have done it in the United States,” Huber says, adding that most of The Hadrian’s cornice was made in Paris. “The original cornice was over nine feet tall, so we created seven panels, each of them 2.5 feet wide and no longer than 2 meters, that click together like Lego bricks, so it was very easy for the contractor to install. The seams are invisible.”
He says that the panel system ensures that the cornice and its fasteners will remain waterproof and also will allow the copper to expand during inclement weather.
The ornamentation—33 lion’s heads, 34 swags with leaves, 34 fleurs-de-lis, 27 shields, 16 anthemia, and various other designs—was made from pressed molds. Once the panels were installed on the roof, each ornament was soldered in place and fastened with rivets.
“It’s like putting ornaments on a Christmas tree,” Huber says, adding that the dentil molding was pre-fabricated and that every leaf of each garland was applied separately.
The cornice, which won a 2018 North American Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association and the Canadian Copper & Brass Development Association, is the highlight of The Hadrian’s restoration.
“Though it’s high in stature, the eye is naturally drawn toward the copper detailing,” Huber says.
Architect: Jan Hird Pokorny Associates
Copper Manufacturer: KME
Clay Models and Ornaments Tooling: VM Building Solutions