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Engineer of the Moment: Ksenia Tretiakova

Ksenia Tretiakova at the drafting table.

This month’s "Engineer of the Moment" spotlight falls on Ksenia Tretiakova, one of LERA’s talented rising stars. Having interned at LERA while earning her Master in Structural Engineering from Penn State University, Ksenia joined LERA full time as a Design Engineer in 2013. Although she was trained in design engineering, she soon discovered a passion for hands-on site work and investigation, and she wears many (hard) hats, including for the roles of concrete special inspector and surveyor of historic buildings. A woman of many talents, she is also a passionate sketch artist with a love of drawing architectural features, a skill that she cultivated when sketching the ancient and iconic architecture of Rome while studying abroad in Italy. Taking advantage of her wide skill set, Ksenia is driven by a desire to understand why things work the way they do, and she brings her enthusiasm for hands-on learning to every project.

Born in a small town in Siberia, Ksenia moved with her family to Philadelphia at a very young age, and she credits her mother for being a superb role model. It was while working on her graduate thesis at Penn State that she developed a love for existing buildings and historic preservation, which was spurred on by her internship experience at LERA. Once she joined LERA full time, she avidly pursued her interests in concrete and historic preservation, ultimately helping the firm to break into the preservation, renovation and adaptive reuse areas of structural engineering.

Two ongoing projects exemplify the hands-on nature of Ksenia’s approach: the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Riverside Park and the Women’s Building in Manhattan.

Ksenia's sketch of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.

Ksenia on site at The Women's Building

For the Memorial, Ksenia was charged with leading the surveying and structural analysis of this landmark monument in need of extensive repairs. Dedicated in 1902 by Theodore Roosevelt, the 150-foot brick and marble structure was built in memory of the New York soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. The project posed many interesting challenges to the survey team, such as the inherent uncertainties in structural modelling and the limited accessibility to the full perimeter and height of the structure. To overcome the inaccessibility of certain portions of the monument, Ksenia’s team proposed the placement of surveyors directly on top (via a personnel lift), from where they would rappel down the sides of the monument to survey and record any cracks and defects visible on the exterior.

“My favorite feature of the Memorial is the middle dome of the tower,” she explained. “It was created from a series of long, thin stacked tiles, an ingenious yet simple technique brought over from Spain by the architect Guastavino in the 19th Century. The tiles are nothing special by themselves, but when joined together, they have an incredible combined strength that stands the test of time.”

Ksenia got her hands even dirtier when surveying the foundations of the Women’s Building, a former YMCA for merchant sailors turned women’s prison. After the advent of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the prison was decommissioned, and the building’s new owners held a design competition to help transform it into a community hub and incubator for local women and women-owned business. To coincide with its goal of advancing the women’s rights movement in New York City, the competition was aimed at female-led firms, and as a Minority- and Women-Owned Small Business Enterprise, LERA was brought in to lead the structural engineering of the restoration. Donning a hazmat suit and carrying a flashlight, Ksenia crawled through more than 500 feet of an underground service hatchway to examine and photograph the building’s foundations, and in the process discovered new access points and an old abandoned brick storage area.

Such dedication, creativity and ingenuity are what make Ksenia an obvious choice for LERA’s Engineer of the Moment!

Ksenia on site with Megan Lenz and others from LERA.

Assorted sketches of Roman architecture.

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