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Our Construction Update Blog


March 29, 2013

A Tight Fit, a Little Fun, And a Really Loud Jackhammer

To close out the week, a tight squeeze, shown above, for the lift needed in removing ceiling trim. At lower right, know how loud a jackhammer is as you pass one along a highway? Well, inside cavernous rooms of bare steel and concrete, it's deafening. The wall behind the jackhammer operator is the current elevator; the hole is where the new one will go.

Finally, at lower left, a project of this size is serious business, but it doesn't mean you can't take a few seconds and mug for the camera. As always, click any image to enlarge.

March 26, 2013

A Crucial Part of our Renovation is a Part You'll Never See

When your utility bills average $44,000 per month, energy savings are a really good thing. And when it comes to our new energy-efficient HVAC systems, Kevin, shown above, is our man at the switch.

The old inefficient equipment is so large it has to be removed via the roof by crane, as shown lower left. Middle left, some of what's being removed dates back to the Museum's original construction. The middle right picture shows one of the old chillers that will be removed and the picture at lower far right shows new equipment that's half the size and just as powerful. More importantly, in a heating and cooling tower that looks like the inside of a battleship—everything done in Navy 187 and 307 greys—the new machinery is beige. Click any image to enlarge.

March 25, 2013

In Our Galleries, a New Cutting-Edge Mixed Media Work

Shown above, it has seen a cutting edge, and it is mixed media, but it's also the backside of a ripped-up carpet from an upstairs gallery. This stubborn mix of carpet, padding, glue and pieces of wooden subfloor will have its exhibition opening in a dumpster. Shown at right, with the scaffolding on the south addition all up and locked in, the man who worked really hard to make it happen walks away and calls it a day. Click any image to enlarge.

March 20, 2013

Interior Demolition Moves Closer Towards Wrapping Up

Shown above, an exploratory cut into an old set of steel steps that will be coming out soon. At some point, we'll have to count up how many dumpsters we've filled up since we started. Shown below, a crew is framed in dusty worklights as a wall comes down in an upstairs gallery. Click any image to enlarge.

March 20, 2013

Around the Block, There's a Flurry of Activity

The block walls for the north addition are going up. Maybe it was something as simple as improving weather, but there seemed to be a sense that the pace of work was picking up and that overall, the mood seemed really upbeat today. In the picture at top, that concrete-slicing saw is made by Stihl, and that company has long been a valued supporter of this museum. Click any image to enlarge.

March 19, 2013

Ricau Gallery Work Reveals a Big "Who Knew?"

As shown below left, the Ricau Gallery and its skylight made for a beautiful and dramatic setting after dark. Turns out there are actually two skylights involved, one to keep the weather out and one to diffuse the light and protect the art. That inner layer of glass is being replaced (after more than 20 years on the job) as part of our overall goal of freshening every gallery. You can see the work in progress, below middle, and how both sets of trusses look today, below right. Click any image to enlarge.

March 18, 2013

The Brain Trust Tours, and the Floor Cleaning Grinds On

The nickname is "The Brain Trust." That's when Museum officials, contractors and consultants don their hard hats and check up on things. Here they can be seen through the newly erected stud walls in the glass galleries. As they were checking on details, in a nearby room a solitary machine—a floor buffer with diamond-tipped bristles—kept grinding away on all the residue left behind as carpets and flooring were pulled up. There was just something about the dust patterns that made us think of clouds.

March 15, 2013

While the Art Waits Patiently, the Work Proceeds

On the southern addition, the second-story concrete floor was poured today. It caps a tricky bit of engineering, as the flooring ties a lot of structural steel together. As shown bottom left, the concrete goes straight from the mixing truck into a special pump. In the second photo, the worker at left is directing the pour pipe by remote control. Workers then slosh through the concrete to provide a smooth finish. Click any image to enlarge.

March 14, 2013

Grinding Along and Earning Respect

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Among our crew, there's often a palpable sense of respect when they run into features that date back to the original museum construction in the 1930s. The removal of this particular steel lintel is just one example of the quality of work from back in the day. This thing was stubborn, strong and built to last, and when faced with removal, it put up quite a fight. Click image to enlarge.

March 13, 2013

Progress Inside and Out

Shown at right, from a perch high atop the north addition, the bright light of a welding torch lights up the welder's protective shield.

Below, use this link to remember the Ricau Sculpture Gallery. It looks quite different today.

As always, click any image to enlarge.

March 11, 2013

A Great Big Saw Makes a Great Big Noise

Outside on this bright sunny day, there was some blockwork being done and a few more touches laid down by welders. Inside, to facilitate our new elevator, it was time to cut a hole in a seriously thick concrete floor. As shown below, the big blade ate right through it. Now, for the record, take a moment to think of the loudest piece of machinery you have ever been around. Safe bet this was louder. Click any image to enlarge.

March 8, 2013

Behind the Scenes: The Principles of Packing Great Works of Art

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Being closed for renovation is a great time to lend works to other museums. We have worked, or will be working, with close neighbors (Virginia MOCA), regional partners (North Carolina Museum of Art), national institutions (Smithsonian American Art Museum), and internationally known museums such as the Royal Academy of Arts in London or the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, to name just a few.

With that in mind, here are quick insights on what's involved behind the scenes.

• To protect a tempura-on-wood-panel painting, more than 550 years old, against temperature and humidity changes on an airplane ride, we use what could be described as a high-tech version of a kitchen seal-a-meal vacuum bag. Of particular concern is the potential warping of the wood; the back of the painting already is criss-crossed with stabilizing supports that would make a bridge engineer proud. It's the type of work that illustrates how the people who work behind the scenes here have very cool jobs.

• When packing big heavy statues, either marble or bronze, the container has to do more than protect against bumps and scratches. It needs to be designed to withstand something happening to the transport. If the vehicle winds up on its side, for instance, a 400-pound object would crush packing peanuts and punch through cardboard. The object must be protected not only from side-to-side movement, it must remain protected even if the transport winds up upside-down. That means the bottom has to be locked in, and all restraints must be done in a manner where no appendage—strapping down a statue by its arms, for instance— would have to bear more weight than it could handle. The holding brackets themselves, as shown above, need to include protection for the surface.

• Also as shown above, everything must be reversible. At some point the host museum will have to pack it up and send it back, so the instructions need to be clear and the restraints need to be reusable. The object should go back in the opposite way it came out.

• And finally, the best news of all. Incidents in this field are rare. The best thing you can say about this kind of packing is that the extra protection wasn't needed at all on that particular journey. Consider all this just another example of how this is a field where mistakes and losses are just not an option.


In coming weeks, we'll have more to say about our Works on the Road, but for now we close with a construction note. Seems like whenever we have welders working (as in here and here, today on the north addition) it's a cold, windy day. Since the welders are getting close to wrapping up, we suspect spring is getting close.

March 7, 2013

One Last Ride For Our Passenger Elevator

To improve our pedestrian traffic flow we must move the elevator. This morning, after one last piece of artwork was brought down from storage, we started shutting her down. Right after the out-of-order sign went up, work began, as shown above, to clear space for the new lift. Click any image to enlarge.

March 5, 2013

Catching Up On Things: Outside

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It's really satisfying to watch the progress on the north addition, the Mary's Garden side. The framing for the addition is being tightened up, the floor decking is going down, and the extra concrete support inside the structural steel is taking shape. We love progress. Click any image to enlarge, and for a bonus detail picture, click here.

March 5, 2013

Catching Up On Things: Inside

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With the first-floor demolition essentially finished and second-floor demolition moving that way, there are little tables and workspaces popping up. That's a good sign. If people are looking at plans and mechanical drawings, that means things are getting close to going up, not coming down. Click any image to enlarge, and for a bonus detail picture, click here.

Earlier entries:

February 2013

January 2013

October/December 2012

August/September 2012

June/July 2012