SmithGroupJJR led the design team to carefully detail the building’s exterior from top to bottom, working closely with construction manager Clark/Smoot/Russell during construction.
One of the first design and construction challenges surfaced during the building’s foundation phase. Because 60% of the museum was to be built below ground, 380,000 cubic yards of earth was removed as site excavation reached 65 feet deep. Unfortunately, the water table at the site is only 15 feet below grade, and it quickly became clear during construction that implementing the original waterproofing design would face some unexpected hurdles. When the support of excavation wall failed during installation and ground water entered the perimeter, SmithGroupJJR provided a solution that completely re-designed the foundation to a “bath tub” enclosure system to fully protect the below-ground levels of the museum.
Today, the museum’s four underground levels are home to some of Museum’s most significant attractions and spaces. An expansive History Gallery spans three of the concourse levels, and celebrated spaces like the 350-seat Oprah Winfrey Theater and Contemplative Court also reside below grade on another concourse level. The Museum’s five levels above ground feature a Central Hall, Orientation Theater, store, education space, community and culture galleries, and staff offices.
The striking design of the building features two distinct design elements—the “Corona,” the signature exterior feature that consists of 3,600 bronze-colored cast-aluminum panels weighing a total of 230 tons, and the “Porch,” which serves as the location for the main museum entrance on Madison Drive. For more on the Museum’s design, click here.