The Corning Museum of Glass Contemporary Art in Corning, N.Y., is a not-for-profit museum dedicated to one thing: showcasing the beauty, versatility, and artistry of glass.
When the museum decided to expand the space in 2015, adding a 100,000 ft² addition, including 26,000 ft² of gallery space, they relied on another versatile material: precast concrete.
“The new design wing showcases the high-quality finish and tight fabrication tolerances that can be achieved with precast concrete,” says Lucile Walgenwitz, associate at Guy Nordenson and Associates in New York, N.Y.
One of the museum’s most prominent design features is the high-performance precast concrete long-span roof joists to support a series of gabled skylights, which filter light into the galleries below. To extend that aesthetic, the architects designed a series of 200 thin, closely spaced precast concrete roof joists, ranging from 6 to 55 ft, that span north to south between perimeter steel and interior concrete wall elements to support additional skylights. A system of thin steel purlins runs east-west over the top of the precast concrete roof joists to provide lateral bracing to the joists.
“The innovation in this project lies in the slender geometry of the precast roof joists,” says Erich Oswald, associate partner at Guy Nordenson and Associates. The extremely thin profile of the precast concrete joists, coupled with the long spans and roof loading requirements, demanded detailed analysis of expected cracked sections and lateral torsional buckling modes. “Complex structural calculations had to be performed to confirm lateral stability, taking into account many different loading configurations and geometrical variations across the roof,” he says.
The absence of architectural finishes also meant that the whole roof structure was exposed to view. So in addition to meeting the load demands and negotiating the complex geometry, the connections had to complement the overall architectural design intent. “Using precast concrete allowed us to embed connection material such as sleeves and anchors within the joists and minimize the need for additive components that may have detracted from the architecture,” he says.
Walgenwitz notes that prefabricating the pieces off-site allowed the team to achieve the high compressive strength without any problems. “Tight tolerances and high strength were both key, given the slender geometry of the roof joists.”
Despite the complexity of the design, the erection process went quickly without any major problems, which Oswald attributes to close coordination between the design team, general contractor, fabricators, and erectors. “This allowed the schedule to progress without interruption… and helped the project to be completed on time.”