Glass Flooring Takes the Stage for Brooklyn Art Museum Renovation

In many architectural creations, the glass itself often becomes an artistic showpiece, demanding attention, glances and glimpses from those passing by or, in the case of the Beaux Arts Court at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, walking across. Designed by New York firm Ennead Architects LLP, the museum features a glass floor that measures approximately 98 by 98 feet. It sits 4 inches above the original floor and consists of 252 tempered and laminated glass panels set into shop-fabricated steel frames.

“The new floor preserves the museum’s original historic floor panels, which are obscured but still visible through the new glass,” says Susan T. Rodriguez, founding partner and design principal with Ennead Architects, who was also the design partner for the renovation of the Beaux Arts Court. “The appearance of the glass changes throughout the day, creating color variations from grey to blue. The floor is now structurally sound and reminiscent of the original.”

She explains that for the first time in many years the original coffering in the museum’s Hall of the Americas is visible as a result of removing protective panels that were under the glass block floor.

“From the Hall of the Americas, the view to the original glass blocks is essentially as it was built, and the amount of light transmitted is not noticeably reduced. The new floor is less prone to breakage, and more flexible. The use of structural glass, a material not available in the early 1900s, allows the historic to be retained.”

The glass used in the flooring was fabricated by New York-based Carvart, which supplied a triple laminated glass that has a Trax slip-resistant product as the top layer. Installation was done by Carvart’s sister company RG Glass, which also designed and fabricated all of the stainless steel supports.

While a glass floor is indeed an eye-catcher, careful consideration is a must for both the design and installation.

“Designing surfaces to be walked on is very different from vertical glazing as issues of impact resistance and slip resistance come into play,” says Rodriguez. “The diffusion characteristics of interior, top-lit glass are also unique to this type of application.”

In discussing the installation, Edward Geyman, Carvart vice president, adds, “The frames are floating off the floor, so special brackets had to be designed to carry the weight of the glass as well as the live and dead load. Coordination was very important since terrazzo flooring had to go in after our stainless steel frames were installed. And then the glass was installed into the stainless steel frames afterwards.”

Testing was also critical.

“This is a public space and all types of testing were involved. We tested our products for dry and wet slip resistance, we did the load engineering, we did drop tests since this space is used for private parties. We also provided special interlayers within the laminated glass, which blocked out 99.9 percent of ultraviolet (UV) light, since there are artworks in the floor below and UV light was a big concern,” Geyman says.

Rodriguez adds, “We had numerous mock ups made to test the glass color, glass slip-resistance, appropriate abrasive texture, and interlayer color and type for UV resistance. In addition, coordination was required for structural and detailing issues.”

She adds that there are three things that stand out as making the Beaux Arts Court an example of a project that uses glazing significantly.

“The size of the project, the use of glazed flooring in a historic application, and our ability to preserve the transfer of daylight to the space below the Beaux Arts Court,” she says.

All images ©Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects