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Magnificent Museum Makeover

Speed  Art  Museum Low Rez 2

Metal modernizes and restores Kentucky's oldest art museum

Acupuncture architecture. That's what the architects at Los Angeles-based and New York Citybased wHY called their redesign of the Louisville, Ky.-based Speed Art Museum because of the precise interventions at multiple points meant to modernize and bring new life to the noble institution. The judges named it the category winner for the Renovations & Retrofit category for the 2017 Metal Architecture Design Awards, citing the subtlety brought to its metal panels claiming it showed "a new meeting point between the organic and the technical."

This $60 million construction project added 62,500 square feet to the museum's amenities and exhibit space. The renovation encompassed a thorough redesign of a 1927 neoclassical building, plus two additions and a sculpture park.



The architects understood that the main challenge in dealing with a 1927 building was designing something new to look historic. The metal panels bridged the gap between the old and new.

"The existing 1927 building has a local limestone cladding so we wanted to design the expansion to complement the old, but at the same time to show the spirit of innovation of the time we live in," says Andrija Stojic, LEED AP, director, wHY, New York City office. "The selected folded aluminum panels manufactured by Maplewood, Minn.- based MG McGrath Inc. gave us the opportunity to achieve several things: match in color, create a very subtle reflection, and create an illusion of a play between light and shadow in an equivalent way that the molding of the existing building does. In form, the horizontal moldings of the existing historic 1927 building inspired the addition's metal panel profile. It complements the old and stands out at the same time."

"MG McGrath was involved in the project very early on to help with the exterior façade during the design assist phase of pre-construction," says Dave Rassmussen, business development/pre-construction manager for MG McGrath. "We developed numerous panel samples and profiles, and numerous anodize finish colors to achieve what the architectural team desired." MG McGrath manufactured, fabricated and installed:

  • A 485-square-foot aluminum composite metal wall panel system
  • A 19,540-square-foot custom corrugated expanded aluminum panel system with a custom pattern
  • A 20,610-square-foot, Moon Township, Pa.- based CENTRIA's MetalWrap insulated-core metal wall pack-up system
  • A 245-square-foot corrugated screen wall with aluminum corrugated wall panels at the back side

The architects wanted to keep the authenticity of the building by modeling some aspects of the museum's original design, while still incorporating modern and sleek materials. A 60,000-square-foot north pavilion was created by stacking three shifted volumes sheathed in fritted glass and folded aluminum panels, similar to the moldings of the original museum. The materials also create a dynamic change when natural light is introduced.

Houston-based Cristacurva supplied and fabricated the custom glass panels for the museum façade. Cristacurva experimented with various forms and geometric shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, etc., to create the final look wHY was looking for in the pattern. The final design consists of rectangles in a vertical orientation that have a specific formation that starts clear on the bottom and becomes tighter and denser as it rises up, controlling the light entering the museum. Thorton Thomasetti, New York City, was the façade consultant and the skylight manufacturer was Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga. The museum also uses aluminum fixed louvers.

"With so many variations from one panel to the next, having over 60 different patterns, that may look very similar at a glance, yet had their very own design, required good job control," says Patrisia Yanez, project development leader-decorative products at Cristacurva. "Each piece was designated its very own graphic file code and mark number to represent its part of the puzzle."

Another challenge was creating a ceramic frit spandrel glass match to the anodized aluminum panels. "There was a pattern we were to replicate from the corrugated design along with two Champagne-tone colors," Yanez says. "We were successful in this match both for the colors and the alignment of the pattern." Opened in early 2016, the museum's annual attendance is expected to reach 200,000 visitors.

Sidebar: Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Ky.

Completed: March 2016
Total square footage: 220,000 square feet
Owner: Speed Art Museum
Architects: wHY, Los Angeles and New York City,, and K. Norman Berry Associates Architects, Louisville, Ky.,
General contractor: F.A. Wilhelm Construction, Indianapolis,
Façade consultants: Thorton Thomasetti, New York City, Fabricator/installer/metal panels: MG McGrath Inc., Maplewood, Minn.,
Façade glass: Cristacurva, Houston,
Façade skylights: Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga.,
Metal panels: CENTRIA, Moon Township, Pa.,