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BSI Celebrates Past, Imagines Future With Missouri Museum

Sat April 29, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Megan Nichols

The Missouri History Society’s new Emerson Electric Center allows visitors to celebrate the past and imagine the future. BSI Constructors Inc. of St. Louis, MO, recently completed the 8,280 square meter (92,000 sq. ft.) structure, which extends south of the existing Missouri History Museum (Jefferson Memorial Building), quadrupling the museum’s exhibition space.

“The total cost of the project was approximately $20 million for the renovation, addition, and site work. .. It was a very complicated building to build with the refined climate control for exhibit space,” Paul Shaughnessy, executive vice president of BSI Constructors, said.

According to Paul Goelz, project manager, Phase I of the project included demolition of an existing structure. Phase II comprised excavation, utility relocation and parking lot construction. At Phase III, crews completed concrete foundation as well as structural steel fabrication and erection. Phase IV consisted of work on the main building, Emerson Electric Center, and Phases V-VI were made up of renovation to the existing museum (Jefferson Memorial Building) and site development. BSI’s work on the original museum included converting an old gallery into office space as well as upgrading electrical, mechanical, and fire protection systems.

The end result is an additional 2,160 square meters (24,000 sq. ft.) of exhibition space in four new galleries; a 347-seat auditorium for theatrical performances, lectures, and symposiums; four classrooms and a resource center; space to host major traveling exhibitions; and a restaurant overlooking Forest Park.

Built in 1913 with proceeds from the World’s Fair as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Memorial Building is a city landmark and one of the country’s finest Classical Revival structures. The original building connects to Emerson Electric Center’s central axis by the Grand Hall and, at the east and west ends, by two level glass enclosed bridges. The glass allows natural daylight to illuminate the stairways and visually links the new wings to the park surrounding the museum.

Two open-air, 12 meter (40 ft.) wide courtyards separate the Jefferson Memorial Bridge and the Emerson Electric Center, maintaining exposure to the face of the original building. A combination of stone pavers and indigenous plantings line the courtyards.

Designed by the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum Inc., an internationally recognized architectural firm under the direction and leadership of Gyo Obata, chairman, Emerson Electric Center is organized around a spectacular Grand Hall. The 360 square meter (4,000 sq. ft.) Grand Hall, an open loggia, connects all parts of the completed structure serving as a focal point and linking each segment of the building. The 13.7-meter (45 ft.) high ceiling towers above glass curtainwalls on the east and west. The hall can be entered from both the north and south lobbies; it also has doorway connections to the adjoining courtyards.

It isn’t every site that has its work sequence determined by a prized piece of Americana. One of the great symbols of St. Louis features prominently in both the design and construction. A full size airplane, an exact copy of the Spirit of St. Louis, flown across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh, is suspended from the Grand Hall ceiling. The plane had to be installed before enclosure of the building and then protected until construction was complete. The aircraft was still being renovated at the time work began on Emerson Electric Center.

Goelz and Dan Kloeppel, site superintendent, adapted the schedule to this unusual need. “We had a series of meetings to communicate what was needed and to make sure that everyone knew what the timeframe was. We met the timeframe. . . We worked longer hours,” he said.

“A lot of the work went into bringing it in at the fixed price,” Shaughnessy said. The project team worked to effectively address challenges. “The arrival of equipment and storage on site were challenges. Timing the delivery of equipment was very important. We worked closely with subcontractors on scheduling.”

Subcontractors on the project include the following firms: Bellow Wrecking and Salvage (demolition), Bommarito (sewers), Crest Electric, DKW Steel Erection, ICS, L.C Steel Erection (precast erection, Kroeger Precast, Leonard Masonry, Lindberg Waterproofing, C. Martin Roofing, T.J. Wies (drywall), Schindler Elevator, Spectrum Coatings, DHA Sheet Metal, Eagle Plumbing, Vee Jay Cement Contracting, Wiegmann & Associates (HVAC), West St. Louis Glass, Interface Materials (Redi-mix), Niehaus (fireproofing), and Nunns Hauling (excavation).

The construction team proved that it could adapt to a variety of situations. The equipment selection was driven by the availability of materials. “Instead of a tower crane, we simply used a crawler crane inside and left portions of the foundation open while we set it … It was precipitated by long lead times of structural steel delivery and materials,” Goelz said.

Work on the project began in the middle of 1997. According to Shaughnessy, crews averaged 75 during the peak of construction. Crews finished exhibit space and work around the site in time for a series of special events celebrating the completion of Emerson Electric Center.

The new addition opened to the public Feb. 12 — just in time to exhibit another symbol of St. Louis’ pride and enthusiasm, the Vince Lombardi “Super Bowl” Trophy. Awarded to the St. Louis Rams, the Vince Lombardi Trophy and the George S. Halas NFC Championship Trophy are both on temporary loan to the Missouri Historical Society. The trophies will be displayed in celebration of both the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl victory and the grand opening of the new addition to the History Museum.

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