building science and architecture

Bill Rose, a research architect in the School of Architecture-Building Research Council University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign IL, U.S.A., has become the primary historian of building science in North America. One of Mr. Rose's papers presents the ideas of building science that Max Abramovitz, the project architect for the United Nations building in New York City, presented to a conference on architecture education in 1949:

Actually, I am very concerned that the science of building is going to disappear. I wonder if you realize how very few men are left today who are expert in building science. They are very rare and they are passed around among the large offices. You have to dig them out of their holes and revive them. One of them in our office is eighty years old. He passed out the other day and we had to pump stuff into him to get him going again because we couldn't spare him. It sounds like a joke, but we also have one who gets drunk every third day, but we can't fire him.
We have talked about design for the past two days and it is of vital importance. But once you get into working drawings, specifications, and supervision with the stark responsibility of doing a good building, you are faced with finding assistants who know building science. Those men are disappearing largely through the force of circumstances beyond our control, because, since 1930 over a period of almost twenty years, very few buildings have been built and very few men have been trained in building science. During the war, building refinements were discarded.
One would think we would know whether we can build a marble wall that will not crack and let water in. That sounds very simple. After all they've been doing it for three thousand years. Well, right now we're having a hot argument about it on the United Nations building. We can't find anyone who will say "I am sure it can be done this way", or "I am sure it cannot be done." We've asked old builders who have repaired the marble columns in St. Patrick's Cathedral…I am sure many other architects are doing the same thing and that all of us are probably repeating each other's mistakes. If one of us finds the answer, the rest won't know about it. Yet, even if you've created a fine piece of architecture, it's a terrific black mark against your reputation when a simple thing like a leak occurs.

From: Proceedings of the University of Illinois Conference on Architectural Education, February 21 - 23, 1949. p. 134.