Reconstructing traditionally-built architectural works of art using fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) can be a demanding – yet ultimately rewarding – enterprise. Just ask Vipul Fadia, president of FRP Accessories USA Inc., which recently reconstructed an ornate dome on a Hindu temple in Pomona, N.Y. The new FRP dome is not only visually impressive, it was faster to build than its predecessor and will be much more durable.
The original dome was built in 2001 using brick and cement stucco over a metal support. Ten artisans from India worked on the temple’s roof for 20 months. Each diamond shaped roof tile, statue and decorative detail was constructed by hand. After just 12 years, however, the dome had seriously deteriorated. Rain, snow and extreme temperature fluctuations caused the masonry to crack, crumble and, in some sections, collapse.
In 2012, temple trustees solicited proposals to replace the dome, and FRP Accessories won the contract. With locations in Monmouth Junction, N.J., and Mumbai, India, FRP Accessories manufactures various architectural composites, including wall panels, cornices, columns, corbels, railings, statues and, increasingly, specialty domes for places of worship or other ornate buildings. Recently, the company has provided intricate architectural items for a Hindu temple in Columbus, Ohio.
After just 12 years, the brick and cement stucco dome (left) on a Hindu temple in Pomona, N.Y., deteriorated. FRP Accessories USA Inc. reconstructed the dome using fiber reinforced plastic covered in gold leaf (right).
From the start, the New York project was challenging. The new dome needed to replicate both the Pomona temple’s previous dome and the centuries-old original Srirangam temple in India after which it was patterned. But no written records, architectural drawings or dimensions of these structures were available.
To begin, a design team from Magnus Composites, FRP Accessories’ subsidiary in India, created drawings from photographs and measurements of the existing temple dome. The dome’s curvatures, which varied tremendously both vertically and horizontally, were more difficult to design than Fadia had anticipated. “The most challenging was the diamond shape on the top part of the dome,” he says. “We used 2-D and 3-D computer-aided design drawings to understand how to make the diamonds, as we had to take care of two-axis curvatures.”
Ironically, FRP Accessories then constructed a full-scale model of the dome using traditional methods. “After detailed discussion, we decided to go for a brick and plaster structure,” explains Fadia. “It was the only way we could recreate such a complex design exactly.” The company used 12,000 bricks to create the model dome and carved decorative designs by hand. The pace of these first two phases – the design and model building – was frustrating, admits Fadia, who waited in New Jersey while Magnus Composites handled the work.