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Whitney Museum of American Art

New York, NY
  • The new Whitney Museum is LEED Gold certified. Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
  • The new Whitney Museum is LEED Gold certified. Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.

To better showcase the Whitney Museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, and to provide additional programming space, the museum commissioned a new building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The asymmetrical 9-story building features tiers of terraces and glazed walkways that step down to the High Line. Cantilevering dramatically over a public plaza, its set-back entrance opens into a lobby that includes a free-entry exhibition space.

Above the lobby, spaces include a theater, offices, and expansive new galleries. On the top floor, a sawtooth skylight system provides natural light for the “studio” gallery and a cafe. The new museum building provides over 50,000 sf of indoor gallery space and nearly 13,000 sf of outdoor gallery space.

  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
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Superstructure

The museum uses composite steel framing with concrete on metal deck slabs. Silman used steel to achieve the design’s long spans and open plan galleries. The galleries and open offices left limited locations for the lateral braced frames, introducing discontinuities in the load path such that most elements in the building were designed for overstrength.

The museum’s upper stories transfer at the column-free fifth-floor gallery, which cantilevers in two directions over the lower four floors. To achieve these 25- to 80-foot-long cantilevers, Silman used a full-story truss that spans along the south side of the gallery and is supported from perpendicularly spanning two-story trusses.

Superstructure

The museum uses composite steel framing with concrete on metal deck slabs. Silman used steel to achieve the design’s long spans and open plan galleries. The galleries and open offices left limited locations for the lateral braced frames, introducing discontinuities in the load path such that most elements in the building were designed for overstrength.

The museum’s upper stories transfer at the column-free fifth-floor gallery, which cantilevers in two directions over the lower four floors. To achieve these 25- to 80-foot-long cantilevers, Silman used a full-story truss that spans along the south side of the gallery and is supported from perpendicularly spanning two-story trusses.

Exposed structural steel round columns support the building’s north-south trusses. To maintain the slim profile of the columns while still providing the required structural support, Silman designed most of the columns as custom hollow steel pipe sections. The more heavily loaded columns were designed as solid steel round sections.

Facade Coordination

The absolute deflection of the building’s long-span beams and full-story trusses was significant in some locations. To aid the facade contractor in the development of details, as well as to facilitate construction sequencing and schedule, Silman provided deflected-shape diagrams and deflection values at critical points, allowing the contractor to estimate expected building movement during installation.

The building facade consists of glass, precast panels, and steel panels. The precast and steel panels are hung from the top and braced laterally at each floor, and Silman designed the lateral connections with redundancy to support the full weight of the panels above. Silman also worked closely with the facade consultants to fine-tune the cable system and support structure for the glass cable wall system in the ground-level lobby.

Because of the site’s proximity to the Hudson River, the project team was concerned about water – both during excavation as well as in the permanent foundation design. To address these concerns, Silman designed double-height, cast-in-place concrete foundation walls around the interior of the site, with an independent, permanent support-of-excavation system at the exterior. These walls were designed to withstand FEMA design flood elevations of the time, in addition to lateral earth pressures. Given the site’s poor soil quality, the basement slab was designed as a 24-inch reinforced concrete mat on mini-caissons.

One of this project’s most unexpected design challenges came during construction, when Superstorm Sandy flooded the mechanical basement. Silman worked with the contractor, design team, and the museum to develop a plan for removing and replacing damaged equipment through the already-installed first-floor framing.

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Floodproofing

To mitigate the potential damage from future storms like Hurricane Sandy, Silman designed reinforcing for a redesigned flood gate and helped design attachments for a flood barrier system, collaborating with the architects to seamlessly integrate these resiliency modifications into the design.

Floodproofing

To mitigate the potential damage from future storms like Hurricane Sandy, Silman designed reinforcing for a redesigned flood gate and helped design attachments for a flood barrier system, collaborating with the architects to seamlessly integrate these resiliency modifications into the design.

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