April 20, 2011

Johnson Construction To Conclude by Fall 2011

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Construction at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art should finish by the time students arrive on campus next fall, according to Johnson Museum Director Frank Robinson and project managers from Cornell’s Office of Capital Projects and Planning.“Our target date right now is August 1 for substantial completion,” construction manager Patrick Conrad said.According to Robinson, the most visible change will be the approximately 16,000-square-foot addition, which consists of three floors. Two of the floors are below ground to avoid visual obstruction of the main building, he said.The Johnson opened in its current location in 1973. It was designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei and a team led by John Sullivan III ’62. The museum turned to Sullivan and the firm Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Architects LLP, to design the new addition.“We decided to go to the same architect that had designed the original building,” Robinson said. “We didn’t want to build anything that impinged on the integrity of the original building.”Expansion of the museum was initiated in response to rapidly growing collections, Robinson said.“When we opened in 1973, we had 9,000 works, and we have 33,000 works now,” he said. “Then, we had 60,000 to 70,000 visitors each year, and now we have 90,000 to 100,000.”The Johnson is storing more than 13,000 works of art in a facility off site as the construction continues, Robinson said.Builders are currently working on putting finishing touches on the infrastructure of the new wing — the roof, in particular, according to Robinson. The summer will be spent on mechanical details such as air conditioning, electricity and plumbing, he said. The Johnson will debut the new addition at a grand public opening on Oct. 15, which Robinson predicts will have a turnout of about 2,000 people.The project, which began in June 2009, suffered only one major unexpected setback. Construction on the building halted for a few weeks due to the discovery of mercury residue, left from a chemistry building that had existed on the site 60 to 70 years prior to the addition. Both Robinson and Conrad said such delays were to be expected.“I think we have a satisfied client,” Conrad said. “They understand why we are where we are.”Robinson agreed with Conrad, reporting that there have been no complaints about the timeline of the construction. According to project manager Michael Swartwout, the costs of the new addition and the renovations to the existing building have remained consistent with the $19 million project budget he set at the start of construction.Robinson said he was pleased with the renovations and expansion, the time frame of the construction and the group’s ability to stay on budget.“We are the client, the museum is the client, and we employ all of these other elements,” Robinson said. “We are grateful to them for the great job that they’ve done.”

Original Author: Rebecca Harris