Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Owner: Milwaukee County
Contractors: Balestrieri Group and Restoric
While modest in scope, this restoration project uses a creative approach and new technology for the preservation of a significant example of modern architecture. Even though consultants felt the tall vertical wall made of single-pane glass glazed into highly customized steel fin frames could not be restored and should be replaced with a contemporary double-glazed curtain wall, the project team recommended a different approach. To overcome the requirement that the new glass be insulating glass, which would double the weight on the delicate cantilevered structure and significantly alter the look of the original fin detail, the solution was to use a new glass technology – Vacuum Insulated Glass. The insulating glass is only slightly thicker than the single-pane glass, allowing it to be glazed into the original custom fin frames with no additional weight to the system. The steel fin frames were restored and repainted in the original color, with the vacuum insulated units installed in the original glazing pockets. In the end, the restoration was completed for less than the budget established for the initially recommended demolition and replacement with a contemporary aluminum curtain wall.
Jury Comments: “This project required some tenacity from the architect. It sends an important message that modernist buildings should not be treated carelessly when their original systems reach the end of their service life. There was a detailed understanding of the technical aspects of how to address a very substantial problem. It is very well executed, with a very smart and serious approach that ended up being less expensive.”