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Contemporary Jewish Museum wins national award

CHICAGO — The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco has earned national recognition in the 2010 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country.

Project team members include owner Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; architect Studio Daniel Libeskind, New York; architect of record WRNS Studio, San Francisco; structural engineer OLMM Consulting Engineers, Oakland, Calif.; steel erector and IMPACT Member, Olson Steel, San Leandro, Calif.; general contractor Plant Construction Co., San Francisco; consultant and AISC member, ARUP, San Francisco.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is a recipient of a National Award in the category of projects $15 Million to $75 Million, making it one of only seven projects around the country to receive the National honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million.

Each project is judged on its use of structural steel, with an emphasis on creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design.

The recently completed Contemporary Jewish Museum is one of the last pieces in the revitalization and transformation of the once decaying Yerba Buena district in downtown San Francisco. The bold and striking new 63,000-square-foot, $47.5 million museum building beautifully integrates modern materials and complex forms with the old Jesse Street Power Station, a national historic landmark designed by Willis Polk in 1907 during the "City Beautiful" movement. The historic features of the landmark substation, most notably its elaborate brick and terra-cotta façade, steel trusses, crane and catwalk, were integrated into the building’s structure.

"Despite contrasting styles, the new and old building work together beautifully," commented Jack Petersen, P.E., principal, Martin/Martin Inc., Lakewood, Colo., and a judge in the competition. "The geometry of the addition could only have been addressed with structural steel."

The building’s contemporary form was inspired by the Hebrew phrase I’chaim (to life!), which led to highly complex geometry and a very irregular structure. Given the complicated geometry, structural steel was the most appropriate and cost-effective framing system for the building.

The building is located in an area of high seismic activity. Resistance to earthquake loads is provided by steel braced frames. Although essentially a two-level structure, the highest point in this angular building rises almost 70 feet above the ground level. The complex geometry of the building blurs the lines between beams and columns, and which elements are resisting gravity loads and which are resisting lateral loads. Many columns are not vertical – some lean in two directions – and the braced frames carry not only the earthquake loads but also gravity loads.

"Overall, [the building shows] excellent execution of the idea, in aesthetics as well as technology," said Tudor Van Hampton, Chicago Bureau Chief, Engineering News Record (ENR), and a judge in the competition. "Tons of curb appeal."

Structural engineers built a 3D computer model of the building in order to perform detailed response spectrum dynamic analyses. Because the braced frames also carry gravity loads, seismic design is required to ensure nearly-elastic behavior for the maximum credible earthquake.

The general contractor and the steel detailing, fabrication and construction team were brought on board early in the design phase, allowing for creative and practical solutions and close collaboration. That led to a project that was successfully completed within time and budget with only minor changes. The museum opened to wide acclaim in June 2008.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2010 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received by architectural and engineering firms throughout the United States. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 awards are of the highest project-based awards bestowed by the structural steel industry, with the annual program dating back over 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said: "The entire Contemporary Jewish Museum project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a museum that serves the public extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel."

Photos of the Contemporary Jewish Museum are available upon request. Please contact Tasha O’Berski at (312) 670.5439 or oberski@aisc.org.