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Pain in the Glass
Tricky trapezoidal glass trips up Zaha Hadid's Michigan museum.
Rendering of Hadid's exterior of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MCU.
Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

The new Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University (MSU) was on track for an April opening, with the project’s architect Zaha Hadid to attend, but construction at the East Lansing site has been delayed, pushing the event back by at least nine months. A January 18 press release from MSU blamed it on “a combination of material supply delays and the priority placed on involving students in opening activities.” No new date has been set.

The building features five large-scale windowed areas that contain between 30 to 60 panes of glass each. According to MSU design administrator Daniel Bollman, Bischoff Glastechnik AG, located in Germany, is manufacturing the glass. Due to the complexity of Hadid’s design, no American company could make it correctly, with the kind of coating that is needed for energy efficiency and lighting. Ill-fitting panes—the panes allow a margin of error of as little as two millimeters—had to be reordered, delaying construction. MSU is sending back the faulty glass for recutting. Calvin and Company out of Flint, Michigan, is installing the glass.

The museum under construction in late January and early February, 2012.
Courtesy Broad Museum / Flickr

According to Bollman, MSU is not responsible for the cost to replace the panes; the subcontractor hired by Barton Malow Design, who is responsible for the entire building facade, is Josef Gartner, a division of Permasteelisa, so Josef Gartner will have to pay for the recutting and reinstallation. Bollman says that all five large windows need new parts, but the two most challenging are the northern and northwestern facades; in the northwest, the building extends out like the hull of a ship. The Lansing State Journal reported that each sheet of glass can exceed 1,000 pounds.

The project is estimated to cost between $40 million to $45 million. The museum is named for Eli and Edythe Broad who donated $28 million to MSU for the project. This is Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid’s first project in Michigan and only her second in the United States. Her first, the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, was completed in 2003.

Sarah F. Cox