The Momentary: Project Profile

What are the vital statistics of the project? (This includes project type, size, stage of design or construction, project team, etc.)

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:

  • Architect: Wheeler Kearns Architects (WKA)
  • Landscape Architect: Howell & Vancuren
  • Civil Engineer: McClelland Engineers
  • Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
  • Theatre Consultant: Schuler Shook
  • Acoustics and AV: Threshold Acoustics
  • Lighting Designer: Lux Populi
  • Laser Scanning: Mortenson Construction
  • Contractor: Flintco Construction

Which were the main software applications used for this project, and how were they used?

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:

Selective Demolition Process

Point Cloud Scan and Revit Model

  1. Mortenson Construction travelled to Bentonville to laser scan the entire building, with a focus on architectural, structural, and mechanical systems. They used a FARO scanner and completed the onsite work in 4 days.

  2. Mortenson provided WKA with .rcs point cloud files as well as fully developed Revit models that were broken up into architecture, structural and mechanical systems. Pipe sizes 1” or greater were included in the model. 

  3. Mortenson also provided WKA access to a Webshare Cloud that included all point cloud data sets and allowed WKA to virtually visit the building from our desks in Chicago (Figure 2). The Webshare allowed us to take measurements, color match at the exterior, and virtually walk through the building whenever we needed.

  4. The BIM model also provided the curatorial team a virtual tool to plan future exhibits.

Selective Demolition Contract Documents

  1. WKA used the Revit models that were developed from the .rcs files to develop a selective demolition drawing set that would communicate to the contractor which elements to save and which to remove. The drawing set included plans of each space with screenshots taken from the Webshare cloud (Figure 3). The screen shots were marked up and pipes were marked as “D” for demolish, “R” for Remove for Reinstallation, and “P” for Protect in Place. WKA developed these drawings in Revit.

  2. WKA supplemented the drawing set effort with a manual effort that consisted of manually tagging elements within the building with duct tape (Figure 4) that corresponded to the three keynotes in the demolition set. (Pink tape for Demolish, Gold tape for Remove, and Yellow tape for Protect)

Record of Taping Effort

  1. Flintco Construction captured the taping effort with a whole-building Matterport scan (Figure 5), prior to the demolition phase.

Energy Modelling

  1. McGuire Engineers worked with WKA to conduct an Energy Efficiency Report during the Design Development phase of the project. The intent of the report was to present energy saving strategies along with cost implications, yearly savings, and payback period. A Department of Energy program called eQuest was used to calculate the building’s rough order of magnitude energy usage. After calculating the energy use based on the existing building’s attributes and the schematic drawings, energy calculations were completed on the mechanical and electrical systems to test the following measures:

    • Demand Controlled Ventilation
    • Energy Recovery Systems
    • Adiabatic Fluid Coolers
    • Water-cooled VRV/F Systems
    • Solar Panels
    • Solar Water Heating
    • High Efficiency RTU’s

  2. RS Means and Manufacturer’s representatives were contacted for budget pricing of the different systems proposed to calculate the payback period. The calculations also included calculated maintenance costs.

  3. McGuire Engineers compiled this information into a report to ownership (Figure 6), who used it to make decisions regarding which energy efficiency measures should be implemented into the project.

  4. The majority of the Momentary building was existing. The additions that WKA made were primarily constructed of glass. WKA And Crystal Bridges Museum wanted to ensure that the specified glass would provide an acceptable balance between energy efficiency and visibility. WKA used IES Software to study five glass specifications (Figure 7). The results of this study, along with physical samples of the glass options, were used to confirm the glass selection.

Art Integration

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.

  1. Grasshopper was used to model different options for stretching the pattern over the glass panels at the Momentary Entry (Figure 8).

  2. Once the pattern was developed further by Addie, WKA imported the design into Revit. WKA used the Enscape plug in to show Addie and Crystal Bridges what the design would look like (Figure 9).

  3. Once the design was approved, Addie and WKA finalized the print for each individual panel in Illustrator. The Illustrator files were provided to the Glazing Contractor and were digitally printed on the glass (Figure 10).

Acoustic Modelling and AV Design

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.

Exterior Lighting Modelling

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.

Did the project have a specific approach or methodology for the application of AEC technology?

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.

Would you consider this project to be an example of the cutting-edge use of technology? If so, how and why?

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.

What are some of the main challenges you faced in your implementation of AEC technology on this project?

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. 

Were there any requirements on this project that were not addressed by currently available technologies?

  1. Detecting underground abandoned utilities
  2. FEMA Flood Maps + modelling flood elevations (time constraint with getting approved by FEMA)

Any additional information/observations/insights on the use of AEC technology for this project that you would like to share?

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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