Glass for Aesthetics and Function
Used in National World War II
Glazing played a significant role in the renovation and expansion of the
National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It was in 1991 that the National
World War II Museum Foundations was created; on June 6, 2000, the 56th
anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, the National D-Day Museum opened
and just two years later, the U.S. Congress awarded the museum the designation
of “America’s National World War II Museum.” As the museum grew in prominence,
so, too, did the need for more space. Architects began to re-envision
what started as a one-building museum into something with multiple pavilions
and larger spaces.
With an ambitious renovation and expansion in mind, the design team at
Voorsanger Architects created the project master plan, while New Orleans
architects Mathes Brierre served as project architects. The contract glazier
was New Orleans Glass, part of Southern Walls and Windows. Likewise, Viracon’s
VNE1-63 glass, a clear glass substrate with a neutral low-E coating, was
used throughout the project.
The first two phases of the $86 million expansion consisted of a multi-sensory
theater, a USO experience, a restaurant and bar, the restoration of three
historic buildings along Magazine Street into administrative space, and
the Campaigns Pavilion, the first of the major exhibit pavilions. In the
plans to renovate the original D-Day Museum, where exhibit space showcased
both airplanes and tanks, the design included an 18-by-18-foot sliding
door built directly into the curtainwall. The engineering and fabrication
teams at New Orleans Glass designed, engineered and installed this custom,
sliding door. When the door is closed, it is not easily apparent, but
when exhibits change, it easily slides open by hand.
“We were attempting to provide the thinnest sightline possible for the
supporting steel mullions,” says Peter Frank Priola, AIA NCARB, and senior
vice president of Mathes Brierre Architects.
The system is composed of an extruded aluminum glazing pocket mounted
to a 1-inch wide steel plate mullion system. The taller vertical mullions,
which span 33 feet, are 1-foot by 3-inches deep plate sections with a
5-inch wide flange at the inside face. The shorter vertical mullions are
composed of 7-inch deep plate sections and the horizontal mullions are
composed of 5-inch deep plate steel.
The Restoration Pavilion was created to house the restoration of a 50-foot
PT boat. During the restoration process, the museum occasionally takes
the boat to the water, which means it needs to be able to enter and exit
the museum space. Because of the pavilion’s location along Magazine Street,
a sliding door was not an option. New Orleans Glass created a demountable
curtainwall system in which 8-foot by 22-foot unitized curtainwall panels
are able to be demounted and then reassembled.
The Solomon Victory Theater is one of the highest-profile portions of
the museum, featuring a large curtainwall open to the museum’s interior
courtyard. The curtainwall features vertical mullions on 8-foot centers,
with unsupported spans that are 35-feet tall. It was also designed to
meet large-missile impact criteria for hurricane resistance. New Orleans
Glass created custom curtainwall vertical mullions that are 18-inches
deep fabricated from ¾-inch solid steel plates.
“We wanted to create sweeping views, with minimal sight lines,” says Priola.
While Priola says the design and installation of the exterior glazing
and curtainwall went smoothly, construction of a glass hand railing system
within the Stage Door Canteen theatre did pose a challenge.
“A low-iron glass product was used in the handrail system around a balcony
surrounding the stage so you had to be able to see through it during performances,”
says Priola. “As it turned out, the glass was not up to standard … as
there were some points of distortion. So we had to have a consultant come
in and look at it and we ended up replacing about half of the panels.”
Priola says there were no project delays though, as the owner noticed
the distortion after the building was pretty much occupied.
“So the replacement work had to be done during off hours.”
Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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