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Metal Assists in Museum's Architectural Addition

A solid structure preserves and exhibits Iowa's military past

The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum honors and depicts the military experience of Iowa citizens in all wars, homeland defense and Iowa service. Collecting, preserving and exhibiting materials to illustrate the story of Iowa's military past from statehood to the present, it honors the heroic service of all Iowa veterans. Located on the Camp Dodge military reservation in Johnston, Iowa, the 6,000-square-foot museum exhibits include one main gallery, a weapons gallery, 34th Infantry Division gallery, POW/MIA gallery, Gold Star Exhibit, art exhibit and museum store.

To accommodate its growing collection of rare military archives and artifacts, including two aircraft and a submarine periscope, it was enhanced in 2009 with a structure as special as what was inside it. "The intent was to design a space that would be timeless throughout the decades; to create a space with dynamic spatial qualities that could accommodate morphing of the collection and easily accommodate future additions to the collection," says Michael Kastner, AIA, LEED AP, ASK Studio, Des Moines, Iowa. "The building was to be quite simply and quite overwhelmingly a flexible stage for the display of history the history of human triumph and human tragedy, on a budget."

From old to new

Camp Dodge was originally a camp and training ground, with infrastructure and buildings constructed in 1917. Over the years, as buildings, barracks and facilities were built, a pallet of red brick and red shingle roofs emerged as the dominant image for Camp Dodge's architecture. The project site is at a main intersection just north of open parade grounds and just south of a historic pool training site. The existing museum, built in 1959, was housed in a single-story, red brick, former Army Division office headquarters building, set toward the back edge of the site.

13The new steel and masonry trim museum exhibit building is approximately three times as large as the original masonry building it was attached to. "The main consideration for the use of metal in the new building was the cost reduction of steel," says Russell Bierl, former director of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum. "The building was paid for with a State of Iowa appropriation that had no allowance for more money. The use of steel building material allowed us to achieve the size and dimensions needed for our needs within the allowed budget."

The museum's planning committee wanted it to be more accessible to visitors to the camp. "By setting the new addition out at an angle from the original building and extending east to the road, a court was created which connects the museum to the intersection and is used for outdoor exhibits," says Kastner. "The two-story, mono-sloped, gallery volume faces the historic open parade grounds, extending above the surrounding single-story barracks, giving the museum a strong visual presence within Camp Dodge and a sense of civic scale. [Moon Township, Pa.-based] CENTRIA metal [wall] panels reinforce this presence. Where the red brick base and red metal roof [from Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb.] ties the museum back to the surrounding architecture, the metal panels accentuate the building volume, provide a contrast to the red brick and create a distinctive image for the building."

An open, glass-faced volume forms a knuckle that ties the gallery volume to the original building, creates the main entry and opens the museum to an entry plaza. "Transitioning from old to new, we closed off one end of the old museum and then built onto it," says Alex Bonzer, general contractor, Jensen Builders Ltd., Fort Dodge, Iowa. "Once we were done with the new part, the museum moved into the new building, and then we went back and totally gutted the old building."


The project was made difficult by the grade of the earth of the building site, the utilities that were in the ground, as well as the major fiber optic lines that run to and from the communication hub in the original museum structure, Bierl says. But, "the use of different colored and textured steel allowed us to bring the two buildings together," he adds.

Metal's importance

The museum's structural system had to fulfill several objectives and metal assisted in doing this. With the tight budget, it provided a cost-effective means to quickly enclose a large volume of space. Metal provided a column-free interior space allowing maximum flexibility for display.

Utilizing a pre-engineered metal building system from Chief Buildings for the main gallery volume met the museum's structural requirements. "The PEMB system was optimized for the repetitive nature of the building layout," says Kastner. "It was easily adaptable to supporting loads from suspended aircraft, and allowed the building to be erected quickly and become weathertight with exterior sheathing and air barrier, so interior mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and finishes could be installed. Exterior brick and metal panels could proceed as weather and schedule permitted."

"Using a PEMB, for us as a general contractor, allows us to get the materials faster than traditional structural steel because the PEMB companies have streamlined processes in place to get the building designed timely and the materials purchased, fabricated and shipped quickly," Bonzer says.

The metal frame is anchored with a masonry base reflecting the functional architecture of Camp Dodge. It transitions into a soaring mono-slope roof accentuated by the lightness and verticality of the multi-color metal panel wall system. The different colors are not readily perceivable, but allow the metal to appear lighter and challenge the viewers' understanding of the envelope and underlying structure.


The exterior structure includes an aluminum storefront glazing system from Santa Monica, Calif.- based Oldcastle Building Envelope with metal wall panels primarily wrapping around the upper half of the building on all elevations. CENTRIA panels were selected for the cladding not only for their ease in installation but also for the dynamic rhythm and texture that they create around the building. The Silver, Silver Grey and Champagne panels are laid out in random spacing. "The ability to get the vertical panels in different shades of gray and gold helped to enhance their contrast to the horizontal orientation of the red brick around it," Kastner says. "Also, more distinct variation in colors would create an unwanted striped pattern."

Flying high

Metal allowed the museum to accept point loads from suspended aircraft. "Inside the building there is a helicopter hanging from the structure," says Bonzer. "We had to work that into the project design with the supplier, Chief Buildings. The design team had to figure out how much load would be hanging from the ceiling, and design a safe way to suspend the aircraft from the steel structure. Physically getting the aircraft inside the building and up in the air also presented some unique challenges for the Guard."

Also, to create a look in the gallery of several aircraft being suspended as in flight, "the building roof system had to visually disappear and we were concerned that a busy open framing structural system would create a visual cap that would impede the sense of flight," says Kastner. "With the PEMB system, the roof purlins were shallow members that could be incorporated into the plane of the assembly. The exposed black insulation scrim created a dark sky against which to display the aircraft. Concerns with wall framing were similar. The building needed to be visually quiet to allow the museum displays to become the focal points."

The unique metal roof proved advantageous in the later part of the construction project. "The building had been designed and was partially completed when it was decided to add a large 40-foot-plus nuclear attack submarine periscope to the building," Bierl says. "We had to put the periscope through the roof of the building after it was in place. This task was easily accomplished due to the flexibility of how to work with a steel roof. The visitors of the museum are not aware of what type of roof the building used, but they sure enjoy the submarine periscope."

To get the aircraft, vehicles and displays easily in into a preparation area and them into the museum, a hydraulic/bi-fold door from Fairfax, Minn.-based Schweiss Doors with CENTRIA panels was implemented. "It's the same style of door used in airport hangar buildings and by farmers across the country," says Bonzer. "This type of door allows an extra wide door to be installed without a center support column. For the museum, this door is not extra wide but, by using this door style it allowed the architect to use metal wall panels that matched the rest of the building."

Because of the steep rise in grade to the north and a major communication line to the south, the only location for this door was off the courtyard adjacent to the main entry. "A concern was because of the proximity to public spaces, this could not appear as a service entry," Kastner says. "By utilizing metal panels on the face of the door and adjacent walls, and creating a rhythm of butt joints within the panels, the door was able to be integrated into the overall wall plane."

Steel impressions

The first impression of the public who visit the museum is surprise. "They are surprised at the size of the structure when walking in from the outside, as well as the large open area of the inside of the building," says Bierl. "They are also surprised at how efficiently the old building has been incorporated into the overall scheme of the new buildings' needs. The lobby, the library and the learning center of the building are the centerpiece of the structure which draw the new and old buildings together. The metal used on the outside walls blend in well with the style of the buildings on Camp Dodge and the original structure of the museum." Sherrie Colbert, the current Gold Star museum director sums it up best: "The structure is beautiful and it really adds to the museum. I didn't know metal could look so nice."


Iowa Gold Star Military Museum Timeline
Groundbreaking: September 8, 2008
Demo building/reroute utilities/earthwork:October 28, 2008
Foundation footings, walls and piers started:November 3, 2008
Metal building delivery: November 20, 2008
Load-bearing CMU walls started: November 28, 2008
PEMB frame started: January 8, 2009
PEMB exterior wall framing and sheeting started:February 2, 2009
Roof panels started: February 9, 2009
Structural steel/metal decking started: February 9, 2009
West exterior framing and sheeting started: March 23, 2009
Slab on grade at PEMB: April 6, 2009
Membrane roofing at West installed: April 17, 2009
Interior wall framing/gypsum at PEMB: May 4, 2009
Interior concrete masonry unit walls: May 28, 2009
Exterior brick started: June 10, 2009
Aluminum storefront and windows: July 16, 2009
Exterior metal wall panels started: August 3, 2009
Interior finishes completed: September 22, 2009
Owner moves into new addition: October 9, 2009
Asbestos abatement at existing building: October 16, 2009
Demolition of existing building: October 30, 2009
Window replacement: October 30, 2009
Framing/drywall/paint: December 8, 2009
Hang doors: December 18, 2009
Final occupancy and completion: December 25, 2009


Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, Johnston, Iowa
Building owner: Iowa Army National Guard, Johnston
Architect: ASK Studio, Des Moines, Iowa
General contractor/erector: Jensen Builders Ltd., Fort Dodge, Iowa
Structural engineer: Shuck-Britson Inc., Des Moines
Mechanical/electrical engineer: KJWW Engineering, Urbandale, Iowa
Soil engineer: TEAM Services, Des Moines
Civil engineer/landscape architect: Cooper Crawford & Associates LLC, West Des Moines, Iowa
Glazing contractor: Two Rivers Glass and Door Inc., West Des Moines
Metal wall panel fabricator: SGH Architectural Products, Urbandale
Metal wall panel installer: The Waldinger Corp., Des Moines
Aluminum framing and glazing: Oldcastle Building-Envelope, Santa Monica, Calif.,
Bi-fold door: Schweiss Doors, Fairfax, Minn.,
Metal building and roof panels: Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb.,
Metal wall panels: CENTRIA, Moon Township, Pa.,
Windows: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope and Manko Window Systems Inc., Manhattan, Kan.,