Dec 14, 2020

Whitney Museum of American Art Addresses Resiliency and Storm Preparedness

Whitney Museum of American Art made modifications to its space to prepare for storm water events.


Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in collaboration with firm Cooper Robertson, showed the threat of severe weather in the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, the museum was under construction. The structure held up well, but the storm surge event brought over six million gallons of river water into the building’s thirty-foot-deep basement, reported the American Alliance of Museums

Before Hurricane Sandy, the Whitney’s original design elevated the lobby to 10 feet, an additional foot above the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recommendation, reported the American Alliance of Museums. 

This number was based on projections for a 500-year storm, but once Hurricane Sandy hit the museum realized it was not enough. FEMA revised its flood zone maps after the storm and recommended a 13.5-foot elevation for construction on Whitney's site. 

The team selected WTM Engineers from Hamburg, Germany, and their partner, the Franzius Institute for Hydraulic, Waterways, and Coastal Engineering of the Leibniz University in Hanover to assist with protecting the urban environment from flooding.

After studying New York Harbor and its environmental history, the Franzius Institute’s team recommended that the museum building actually be protected up to a 16.5-foot elevation in order to protect Whitney’s structure from future storm events. 

The main goal is to preserve the integrity of the museum facility’s ground floor as completely as possible in case of a flooding event.

The architects for the new Whitney Museum recommend waterproofing at the foundation to seal any concrete penetrations made for electrical conduits, gas service, electrical service, and piping, reported the American Alliance of Museums.

Other innovative design elements of the museum is the absence of any permanent galleries or art storage on the lower levels. All art galleries begin on the fifth floor and extend upward. 

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