Theses Master's

The Identification and Conservation of Red Plastic Laminate Panels and its Surface Coatings at Dragon Rock

Trono, Shannon Marie

This research is on the characterization of a surface coating applied to red high-pressure plastic laminates created by industrial designer Russel Wright for his highly personalized and experimental home and studio, Dragon Rock. These coatings have darkened over time and in several areas, the coating has flaked off entirely, revealing a matte red-orange laminate surface. Each red panel is in a different level of deterioration based on its location in the home. In the kitchen/dining room pass-through cabinet, some panels are smooth to the touch, while others have a textural surface. All panels in the living room exhibit the visual commonality of an orange peel effect.

Just as it sounds, the term orange peel marks the resemblance of the surface to that of the peel of an orange. While it has been over two decades since researchers and cultural stewards initially recognized the relatively rapid deterioration of the coating on the red laminate panels, further research, testing, and intervention has yet to take place. This research provides further investigation to better understand the selections that Wright made in terms of modern coatings, and to preserve the existing historic fabric at his experimental home.

To examine the laminate and its coating, minimally-sized samples were collected from the surface and analyzed with FTIR spectroscopy, and other scientific testing methods. In heavily deteriorated areas of the laminate panels a cross-section sample was able to be taken, including the laminate substrate and subsequent layers, for microscopic examination and further study. The testing reveals that the laminate is melamine formaldehyde based and the coating to be an alkyd. Further recommendations for the original panels and how to preserve the integrity of the home are given.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Jablonski, Mary A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 21, 2023