Silman, A TYLin Company, provided structural engineering and design services for the new Whitney Museum of Art building in New York, New York.
The new building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District was commissioned to better showcase the Whitney Museum’s extensive collections and to provide additional programming space. The architect for the project was Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Cooper Robertson.
The asymmetrical nine-story building features tiers of terraces and glazed walkways that step down to the High Line. To the south, the building cantilevers dramatically over a public plaza, creating a set-back entrance that opens into a 10,000-square-foot lobby with 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 café.
Composite steel framing with concrete on metal deck slabs was used for the superstructure. 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 building elements were designed for overstrength.
The structure’s upper stories transfer at the column-free fifth-floor gallery, which cantilevers in two directions over the lower levels. 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.
The absolute deflection of the building’s long-span beams and full-story trusses was significant in some locations. To aid the façade contractor in the development of details, and to facilitate construction sequencing and schedule, Silman provided deflected-shape diagrams and deflection values at critical points. This allowed the contractor to estimate expected building movement during installation.
The building façade consists of glass, precast panels, and steel panels, with the precast and steel panels hung from the top and braced laterally at each floor. Silman designed the lateral connections with redundancy to support the full weight of the panels above. Silman also worked closely with the façade consultants to fine-tune the cable system and support structure for the glass cable wall system in the ground-level lobby.
To address flooding concerns due to the site’s proximity to the Hudson River, 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.
- The foundation walls around the interior of the site were designed to withstand Federal Emergency Management Agency (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.
- 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.
- The Whitney Museum is LEED Gold certified.
- The new building provides over 50,000 square feet of indoor gallery space and nearly 13,000 square feet of outdoor gallery space.
Image Credit: Nic Lehoux