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Reflective Expansion

Museum’s folded aluminum facades form modern interpretation of limestone

Speed Dec17 1
Photo: Joe Brennan, Phalanx Studios

Patterns of vertical stripes create an eye-catching entrance to Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky. The judges for the 2017 Metal Construction News Building and Roofing Awards praised the design’s simple shapes and modern façades. They noted the addition in the renovation project has shapes and proportions based on the museum’s original building. The synergy between modern and historic elements earned Speed Art Museum the Grand Award.

Metal was essential to the design. Custom panels were used to build striped rainscreens. Behind them, insulated metal panels allowed the installer to enclose the building quickly. Overall, the project increased the museum’s size by 50 percent and improved traffic flow.

Shapes and Proportions

One way the addition mimics the original building is its boxy form. Another way can be seen from the west side, where the new structure is on the left and existing on the right. The length of each side is about the same, which creates visual balance.

Another strategy wHY, the design architect for the project, used to translate the original building’s shapes and sizes was break up the three-story addition. The first two floors are aligned on the same vertical plain and are capped by an offset third floor with an overhang.

Andrija Stojic, LEED AP, director at wHY in New York City, says, “We didn’t want to create a massive three-story building. Instead, we broke up the mass into two volumes out of two different materials, glass and metal panel, and created a well-balanced play between the new addition and historic building next to it.”

Limestone Interpretation

Speed Art Museum’s neo-classical, limestone-clad building was first constructed in 1927. It underwent a series of updates including a major renovation in 1977. WHY used the original building’s shapes, sizes and colors to develop the vertically striped façades for a 62,500-square-foot addition on the north side of the museum.

“The molding of the old building is horizontal; it creates an interesting shade pattern on the building façade,” Stojic says. “We took the same motive, turned it vertically, and created a contemporary expression of the neo-classical façade on the new building.”

Photo: Rafael Gamo

The vertically striped rainscreens were constructed with 12 profiles of brake-metal panels, about 20,000 square feet in all. The panels vary by width, angle and depth. To achieve the variations in pattern, the panels were organized into four different pattern sections. Then, the four sections were intermixed to build complete walls. The most significant aspect that creates the color variations is the changes in panel profiles. They appear to change colors due to light reflection. The panels are all anodized aluminum in the same color, Champaign Metallic, specified to match the limestone. “We created an illusion of different shades of a same color to match the historic building by manipulating the angle of it,” Stojic says.

In addition to mixing profiles, two other factors contributed to the multi-colored appearance: anodizing and installation. Dave Rassmussen is business development and preconstruction manager at Maplewood, Minn.-based MG McGrath Inc., the fabricator and installer for the project. He says his company worked with AaCron Inc. in Plymouth, Minn., an anodizer, to augment the perceived color variations in the final application.

“It’s counter-intuitive to what companies typically do because they try to shoot and keep a range that’s real tight so the color is consistent, but wHY didn’t want that in this instance,” Rassmussen says. “[AaCron] actually opened up their [quality control] to allow there to be more variation than they typically allow to their line. You get the color variation because of how the light plays off [the panel surfaces]. What really matters is when it’s on the wall, our eye is going to pick it up because it’s at such a miniscule level, its pore level.”

All the color variations between the panels could not be seen before they were installed. “During the installation we made adjustments to panel placement at times to create the desired effect,” Rassmussen says. “If we felt we needed to change a panel, at times we did.”

Photo: Shane Elliott

Quick Enclosure

In addition to expanding the museum 75,000 square feet, the project included renovating 145,000 existing square feet. “[The general contractor] had a lot of interior renovation also, and they wanted to get to that as quick as they could,” Rassmussen says.

To shorten the time needed to enclose the building, insulated composite backup panels were used behind the decorative rainscreens instead of studs, gypsum board and an air/vapor barrier. MG McGrath installed 20,000 square feet of Moon Township, Pa.-based CENTRIA’s MetalWrap insulated composite backup panels.

The panels allowed MG McGrath to complete the envelope about 25 percent faster than it could have with other materials, Rassmussen says. “It gives you enclosure a little quicker; and then it gives you more flexibility to make sure you can spend the time and energy on the custom exterior façade, so you can get the look that you want. We weren’t impacting other parts of the schedule for the general contractor.”

Improving Circulation

On the whole, the project improved the way people move around and through the museum. The previous entrances were located on the east and west sides of the building. Stojic says its entrance on the west side, next to a street, was underutilized. The entrance on the east side didn’t have much space in front of it and there was black, reflective glass without visibility to the interior.

In the new layout, the main entrance at the north side is pronounced with the folded aluminum façades, glass and concrete. A curtainwall opens up the main lobby to views from the street and surrounding area. Outside, a reflection pond connects the original building and addition.

At the south side of the existing structure, a 12,500-square-foot addition opens the museum to a green space and the University of Louisville’s library, which has a campus around the museum.

“Before [the renovation], to go through the building, you had to go through a maze of corridors and spaces not logically connected to each other as a result of many building additions that happened through the decades,” Stojic says. “We created a new grand entry and a new opening into the historic building on axis and in straight line with the entry. This new axis is connected to all spaces in the museum and clearly directs you to different parts of the building.”