The Momentary is a new contemporary art space that operates as a satellite to the Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Led by Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns
Architects (WKA), the adaptive reuse project saw the 63,000-square-foot decommissioned cheese
factory transformed into a multidisciplinary space for visual, performing, and culinary artists (Figure 1). It was completed and opened to the public on February 22, 2020.
WKA was tasked with creating a space that offered a unique experience unlike a traditional museum, overlapping social, performance, and culinary activities with art spaces. The focus was on designing a cultural hub with engaging indoor and outdoor areas that would expand the cultural experiences in Bentonville and bring artists from around the world to the region.
In transforming the building for a new purpose, WKA aimed to keep as much of the existing structure as possible. It deliberately differentiated its additions by using contemporary materials like steel and glass, an open and visible intervention that brings the old and new together in a diverse, but holistic, program.
The project team was as follows:
The main technological aspects of the project included laser scanning to document the existing building and enable WKA to work on it efficiently from afar, energy modeling to determine glass specifications, acoustical modeling, art integration, and exterior lighting. They are described in detail below:
Point Cloud Scan and Revit Model
Selective Demolition Contract Documents
Addie Roanhorse was commissioned by the Momentary to design a glass frit pattern that would be implemented on three different glass additions to the building. WKA assisted Addie Roanhorse in applying the pattern she designed onto the different glass components.
The Fermentation Hall inside The Momentary was nicknamed the “7-Second Room” by the design team because of its seemingly endless reverberation.
The Acoustics and AV firm for the project, Threshold Acoustics, developed an acoustic model in-house to explore the potential of a multipurpose screening room, theatrical and presentation space inside the existing voluminous concrete box with 35’ high ceilings and 76’ long, parallel walls. The goal was to find methods to reduce the reverberation time to a suitable response for speech intelligibility and clarity while preserving the lush reverberation for singing and artistic inspiration.
Using Sketchup and Odeon room acoustics simulation software, the team demonstrated how the RT could be tamed from upwards of 2 to 3 seconds (at low to middle frequencies) all the way down to 1 to 1.5 seconds with an audience in the seats and the retractable acoustical banners (fabricated by Texas Scenic) deployed. The modeling helped the team develop the articulated panels tucked up into the roof structure to diffuse reflections from the ceiling (Figure 11).
The Fermentation Hall also features a Soundscape spatial audio system, by d&b audiotechnik, that allows artists to move sound around, above, and behind the audience. The acoustic model results helped the team make critical decisions and the client realize its dream for the repurposed space.
Faced with large areas of exterior space to light and a focus on keeping as much of it open for performances as possible, Lux Populi, the Lighting Designer for the project, used Dialux to perform photometric studies of novel lighting solutions, such as clustering the lights on to a few very large poles to minimize their footprint. These studies were accompanied by coordination in the BIM model to complement existing piping and structure.
WKA acted as both the design architect and Architect of Record for the project, despite working remotely. (WKA is located in Chicago, the Momentary is in Bentonville, AR).
WKA employed technologies that would help us to maintain a presence on site virtually, allowing a higher precision of coordination for existing building elements as they related to new work. The workflow of “laser scanning > BIM modeling of existing > selective demo coordination > Photoscanning > iterative design modeling in BIM > selective performance modeling > construction informed by BIM > remote CA presence” enabled efficient responses to a complex series of conditions from a distance.
Beginning from a variety of technologies routinely employed in our office, we assembled different technologies and processes together to specifically suit the project. The ability to work through an adaptive reuse process remotely was only possible due to the cutting-edge workflow.
The Momentary is an arts space adapted from a 1940s-era manufacturing plant and its patchwork of additions made over the past half century. The existing building not only consisted of multiple additions made over a 70-year period, but also an extensive system of piping and infrastructure that was now a relic of the industrial past. We wanted to selectively preserve some of this infrastructure while carefully removing other parts to make way for new interventions and art. We referred to this as “finesse demolition.” The challenge came in communicating to the contractor which pieces should stay and which should go. (See the section on “Selective Demolition process” in response to Question #2.)
With any adaptive reuse project, unexpected and unforeseen conditions must be dealt with quickly and efficiently during construction. During the two-year construction timeline, WKA was on site at a minimum every two weeks. In between site visits, we often used FaceTime to solve issues with the contractor, Flintco Construction, which allowed them to continue their work on schedule.
Artists creating works for the Momentary can virtually visit the unorthodox exhibition spaces to understand their nuances—the virtual model that was created for this project will never be obsolete.
We were also able to provide SketchUp exports to the curatorial team for their use prior to building completion / occupancy.
Acknowledgments: The responses to the questions for this profile were provided by Calli Verkamp of Wheeler Kearns Architects. The profile itself was facilitated by Kate Robertson of Susan Grant Lewin Associates.
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