Monday, August 15, 2011

architectural block type: Newkirk, Iowa

photograph by versluis © 2011

Here’s an interesting example of a local 70 years old architectural block type style with nice letter spacing. The name is found on a dilapidated, obsolete public school building located in the very small crossroads (Dutch Reformed) settlement of Newkirk, Iowa (organized in 1882 as North Orange; Sioux County, Holland Township). The auditorium was added to the older classroom building in 1941. The addition was a community project constructed by the WPA (Works Projects Administration). And the building suggests very conservative Art Deco styling with streamlines as indicated by the photograph above.

In this case individual sans serif block style letters made of wood or hard rubber are cleverly adhered in reverse, on the inside surface of the wall formwork, as molds for the reinforced concrete. Once the poured concrete has hardened and the forms removed — the result is a “cast-in-place” sign, which produces the appearance of incised letters chiseled in stone. With this process there’s more than meets the eye. For example, the width of the letter stroke determines the depth of the letter as well as the angle of the bevel. This slight bevel helps to pull the letter molds out of the concrete and makes the edges stronger and helps prevent spalling.

“Architectural type has to compromise between materials and legibility.” [1]
  1. Spiekermann, Erik, and E. M. Ginger. Stop Stealing Sheep & find out how type really works. 2nd ed. Berkeley: Adobe Press, 2003. 73. Print.

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