Building Envelope Upgrade at Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Apr 12, 2010

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the last major work by Frank Lloyd Wright completed in 1959, was the focus of a major restoration effort from 2004 to 2008. Throughout its service life, the building has performed admirably, but with some prominent building-envelope flaws. In response to evidence of cracking, the museum undertook an extended study prior to remediation. The principal focus of the remediation was architectural and structural—heat and moisture analysis was part of the overall effort. One part of the heat and moisture analysis was investigation and measurement of conditions in the wall assembly.

Temperature and humidity data was collected at several locations. Results varied, but higher moisture content was documented at one location throughout the winter. On two cold isolated occasions, while the entire wall system was protected from rain by a temporary roof system, liquid water was emitted to the outside through horizontal cracks in the concrete. The analysis of these conditions led to the adoption of measures 1) to control air flow through the assembly; 2) to reduce rain loading on the wall; and 3) to reduce the effect of cold bridging where the exterior walls meet the floor slabs, interior walls and new steel reinforcement. This study will be presented.

The paper includes the transient modeling undertaken during the project. This study focused on investigating the effects of insulation, interior vapor retarding materials, exterior water protection films, and concrete and other components according to the latest boundary conditions specified by ASHRAE 160P. Moisture conditions potentially leading to deterioration of the concrete and steel were used as the limiting criteria. This study assisted in specifying exterior coatings and any modifications to the interior insulation or vapor protection.

The final system upgrade included the installation of a new fluid-applied air and moisture barrier and cellular glass insulation on the interior side of the uppermost Rotunda wall, which was exposed to allow for the installation of the surface-mounted interior structural reinforcemen

WIlliam B. Rose (Willam B. Rose and Associates)
Angel Ayon (WASA/Studio A)
Presented at: 
Building Enclosure Science & Technology (BEST2) Conference
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
William B. Rose and Associates
WASA/Studio A
Building Enclosure Technology & Environment Council (National Institute of Building Sciences)

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