Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Next Generation of Flooring: Magnesite, Star Trek and Frank Lloyd Wright's Favorite Material of the "Buffalo Venture"

It wasn't easy, but I've found a connection between the Star Trek and Frank Lloyd Wright universes:  magnesite.

Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes)
While watching an old episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (thank you, Roku), I stumbled upon a familiar term: Commander Riker exposed an elicit cargo of magnesite, smuggled by Klingon femme fatales, Lursa and B'Etor in the episode "Firstborn."

At first, I scratched my head and thought it must be one of those exceedingly rare and fictional elements they're always referring to (e.g. dilithium - fictional in the Star Trek universe).  But no, magnesite is simply magnesium carbonate, a compound relatively common on earth, and used in steel and synthetic rubber production a binder in flooring material.  
Magnesite (magnesium carbonate) crystals

This is where Frank Lloyd Wright and his Buffalo buildings come in:  Wright specified a building material commonly called "magnesite" - though it's really an aggregate of magnesium carbonate and other materials such as excelsior ("wood wool") - for both the Martin House and the Larkin Administration Building.  In the Martin House, "magnesite" was used as a flooring surface in the basement level and second floor.  In the Larkin building, it was used even more extensively, incorporated even in some of the desk tops and other Wright-designed metal furnishings (see Quinan, Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building: Myth and Fact, p. 56).  

The light court of the Larkin Administration building.
In both buildings, "magnesite" was specified primarily as a fireproofing, and thus contained one of the most fireproof materials known at the time:  asbestos.  Rest assured that the magnesite in the Martin House was removed under safe abatement protocols, and the replacement material is asbestos-free.  In the Larkin building, "magnesite" was also employed to absorb the cacopohony of sound generated by hundreds of typewriters and other business activity.  

So perhaps a universal translator is required to distinguish magnesite from "magnesite," but it's one term shared by Frank Lloyd Wright's 20th century "Buffalo venture" and the Enterprise's 24th century star trek. 

And, if I may introduce a new definition for the term:   

magnesite - a substance known to create confusing quantum singularities in the blogosphere.



jade said...

"Anywhere the potential for moisture is high, you need the right subfloor system to protect your flooring." The Holmes Spot agrees!Master Concrete Flooring

Dynamite Films said...
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