Prison turned pavilion

Thursday 19 Apr 2012

Immense 23ft glass panels define new event pavilion at James A. Michener Art Museum

In a ceremony yesterday evening at The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, museum officials dedicated The Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion, an elegant, all-glass structure extending into the north side of the Museum's Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden.

Founded in 1989, the museum occupies the site of the former Bucks County Prison, built in 1884 and designed by Addison Hutton. Although much of the prison was torn down in 1986, remnants of the old stone building are incorporated into the museum, including three massive 23ft tall fieldstone prison walls.

Designed by the architecture firm KieranTimberlake, and constructed by Adams-Bickel Associates, Inc., the Event Pavilion demonstrates a unique and ambitious use of structural glass panels, allowing seamless views to and from the interior of the museum toward the magnificent former prison walls that encompass the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden.

James Timberlake, lead design partner for the project, said: "From the very beginning we thought that to truly celebrate the museum wall, and make the landscape more useful, a modest, transparent jewel box should be inserted in the garden. This singular act now brings this very special stone wall, which defines the museum, directly into the experience of the museum visitor."

The 23ft glass panels used in the Event Pavilion exceed United States standards of glass production in terms of size and weight. They are among the largest self-supporting insulated glass units worldwide, and potentially the largest in the United States. Supplied by Roschmann Group in Gersthofen, Germany, each glass panel consists of five layers, measures 5' x 7" x 23' 6" and weighs approximately 3,350 pounds. A highly specialised, custom-designed suction device developed by Roschmann was used by the contractors to lift the glass into place.

KieranTimberlake's location for the Event Pavilion preserves the existing terrace and allows for passage through the museum's Sculpture Garden. "The wisdom of this scheme is that the Pavilion remains accessible both from the indoor galleries and through the outdoor Sculpture Garden, allowing multiple museum programs to function simultaneously and its highly ambitious glass construction creates a powerful architectural statement that adds significantly to the museum's physical identity," Michener Art Museum Director/CEO Bruce Katsiff added.

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