The Wolf Trap Foundation ignored warnings from the National Park Service that shoddy workmanship could plague a rapidly rebuilt Filene Center and continued to press for the amphitheater's speedy reconstruction after a 1982 fire, according to park service documents.
The center, which reopened last summer, is undergoing emergency repairs after an eight-foot crack was discovered six weeks ago in a huge steel beam that supports the roof. Engineers hired by the foundation said they doubt the crack, which a report this week blamed on a welding flaw and the winter's severe cold, had any connection with the pace of contruction.
The private foundation, which stages productions at the federally owned performing arts center, located near Vienna, was determined not to miss the 1984 summer season and disregarded a park service recommendation that the opening be delayed a year to overcome problems in the $18 million rebuilding project, officials said.
"The probable result of the hurried construction was a structure with numerous design flaws and much shoddy workmanship," according to a study prepared by a park service historian in July 1983 and obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.
Foundation officials did not deny that they pushed for quickly rebuilding the center, but they said that had nothing to do with the crack, which was discovered Jan. 24. Carol V. Harford, the foundation's president, said the contention that speedy construction resulted in shoddy workmanship "is not really well-founded" and said the foundation heeded the advice of all parties involved in the reconstruction, including the park service.
Many construction problems are cited in the administrative history of the Wolf Trap Farm Park that was prepared by historian Barry Mackintosh. He said the rapid reconstruction forced contractors to make 38 major changes in its early phases.
The study was never released to the public or widely distributed in the park service, according to officials, because parts were considered embarrassing to Catherine Filene Shouse. She is the octogenarian heiress who gave 100 acres of land and $2.3 million to build the original auditorium and continues to play an active role in the operations of the arts center.
"Most of the . . . problems with the reconstruction stemmed from the 'fast-track' approach dictated by the foundation," Mackintosh wrote. "To sustain public interest in Wolf Trap for fund-raising purposes, the foundation was bent on completion for the 1984 season."
The report also said that starting the construction while the project was still being designed -- common in private constuction projects in which speed is at a premium -- "inevitably resulted in mismatchings, gaps and other compromises in quality."
In a telephone interview yesterday, Shouse called the history "a very poor report," but said she had not read it.
She said blame for the cracked beam is "a composite picture of responsibility," but that it "had nothing to do with the urgency of getting the building completed . . . . We had to have a date to work for, surely," she said, explaining the foundation's goal to reopen last summer.
Park service officials began their warnings in 1983, while the reconstruction was under way, saying in memorandums that the project was proceeding too quickly to guarantee quality.
Benjamin H. Biderman, a Park Service architect who monitored the reconstruction, urged the foundation to delay the reopening of the building until the summer of 1985.
In an April 1983 memo, Biderman wrote: "This [postponement] will relieve a lot of pressure on everybody, and the results will be [fewer] costly mistakes that will have to be corrected during construction, or during the next 10 to 15 years following completion of the structure."
Biderman, who was not specific in the memos about the type of problems he anticipated, said yesterday he was not predicting problems as major as a cracked structural beam.
"It's possible that the rush could have contributed to less than satisfactory specifications and inspection," he said. "But there are examples of buildings that had all the time they needed and still had problems."
Engineers who worked on the reconstruction also defended the work in interviews and said the "fast-track" construction probably had nothing to do with the fissure.
"I just don't think it's related to the speed of construction," said Robert H. Braunohler, who administered construction of the center.
"It essentially takes no more time to do a weld properly than it takes to do a weld improperly," said Otto C. Guedelhoefer, a structural engineer hired by the foundation to supervise the repairs, which could cost more than $1 million.
The crack -- a dramatic, two-inch-wide opening -- ran along three sides of the hollow, 130-foot-long girder. The beam is one of four main structural girders supporting the center's roof.
More than half a dozen towers of scaffolding have been built to buttress the roof, which was visibly sagging.
After the 1982 fire, the Wolf Trap Foundation took over the reconstruction when park service officials said the project could not be completed until 1986 or 1987 if the government handled it.
The reconstruction was financed by $18 million in grants and loans from the federal government, and with private funds raised by the foundation.
Officials representing the foundation and the various contractors involved in the rebuilding met yesterday in Washington to hammer out an agreement on who will pay for the repair work.
It will be completed, foundation officials said, in time for the scheduled June 8 season opening.
Several officials involved in the negotiations said a significant amount of the repair costs would probably be borne by Globe Iron Construction of Norfolk, the concern that fabricated the beam.
Globe Iron officials could not be reached for comment.
An official for Materials Testing Laboratories of Virginia, which was responsible for testing the welding in the girder, said he knew nothing about the Filene Center's problems.
"I've never heard of it," said Ralph H. Johnson, president of the Norfolk-based company.
"It sounds like a headache," Johnson said.