The Denver Museum of Art’s new Sie Welcome Center is an unprecedented feat of engineering, and leverages the most innovative, state-of-the-art technology in the field of structural glass.
Approachable from all angles, the Welcome Center was designed as part of the revitalization of the original Gio Ponti designed North Building, which houses the museum’s education center and permanent collection. The building renovation was led by Fentress Architects and Machado Silvetti, and the transformational design envisioned as part of their collaboration serves to unify the overall campus while paying homage to the original intent of Ponti, a renowned Italian modernist. Located in the heart of Denver’s cultural district, it functions as a focal point in an eclectic mix of iconic buildings- the Gio Ponti designed North Building, the Daniel Libeskind designed Hamilton building, and the Michael Graves designed Central Public Library.
The 50,000 square foot Sie Welcome Center’s second-story façade is comprised of a series of 25-foot tall, 8-foot wide, curved insulated structural glass panels along an elliptical footprint- the first structure of its kind to use jumbo curved panels in a design of this complexity, coupled with seismic considerations. In an effort to craft a simple, unique and elegant building form, many façade design iterations were assessed and presented as part of the design-build process, with a core focus on openness, context, budget and innovative technology.
Collaboration was key to the overarching success of the façade design, engineering, material sourcing and installation. Early in the design process, the design team- led by Fentress Architects and Machado Silvetti, in collaboration with Harmon and Sentech- established key goals that drove the selection of the façade & support system. These goals were based on the principles of transparency and simplicity. This meant minimizing the use of visible metal components and connections, and utilizing glass as the primary structural element to support the façade and transfer loads to the support structure.
The resulting façade geometry follows the elliptical footprint of the building, using a scalloped glass panel design consisting of 52 8-foot wide panels with a curvature radius of 10 feet. The panels are identical in cross section with the dihedral angle between panels varying slightly at each joint. The height of the panels is consistent along the building perimeter- 36 panels soaring at 25-feet tall, with the 16 clerestory panels standing at 5-feet tall. The glass used throughout the façade is comprised of laminated, insulated, low-e glass, with all glass panels tempered to minimize the potential for breakage. For support, full height vertical structural glass fins were chosen to reduce glass thickness. The fins also helped to streamline installation by controlling the geometry during the construction phase.
The Denver Museum of Art’s Sie Welcome Center leverages the most innovative, state-of-the-art technology in the field of structural glass. Incorporating a unique connection system to isolate the façade from building lateral movement, this façade application is the first of its kind to utilize curved, jumbo panels with this tight of a radius in an elliptical footprint- combined with a building movement isolation scheme.
In short, this one-of-a-kind structural glass façade serves as a testament to the value of collaboration, communication, teamwork and the innovative power that a collegial environment of respect and achieving common goal can create. Sentech is proud to be part of this project and team-driven effort to make this innovative structural glass façade a reality.
Architect: Machado Silvetti (Design Architect), Fentress Architects (Architect of Record)
Glazing Contractor: Harmon Inc.
General Contractor: Saunders Construction
Building Envelope Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc.
Photo Credit: James Florio & Eric Stephenson