National World War II Museum Features Glass for Aesthetics and Functional Performance

Glazing played a significant role in the renovation and expansion of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It was in 1991 that the National World War II Museum Foundations was created; on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, the National D-Day Museum opened and just two years later, the U.S. Congress awarded the museum the designation of “America’s National World War II Museum.” As the museum grew in prominence, so, too, did the need for more space. Architects began to re-envision what started as a one-building museum into something with multiple pavilions and larger spaces.

With an ambitious renovation and expansion in mind, the design team at Voorsanger Architects created the project master plan, while New Orleans architects Mathes Brierre served as project architects. The contract glazier was New Orleans Glass, part of Southern Walls and Windows. Likewise, Viracon’s VNE1-63 glass, a clear glass substrate with a neutral low-E coating, was used throughout the project.

The first two phases of the $86,000,000 expansion consisted of a multi-sensory theater, a USO experience, a restaurant and bar, the restoration of three historic buildings along Magazine Street into administrative space, and the Campaigns Pavilion, the first of the major exhibit pavilions. In the plans to renovate the original D-Day Museum, where exhibit space showcased both airplanes and tanks, the design included an 18-by-18-foot sliding door built directly into the curtainwall. The engineering and fabrication teams at New Orleans Glass designed, engineered and installed this custom, sliding door. When the door is closed, it is not easily apparent, but when exhibits change, it easily slides open by hand.

“We were attempting to provide the thinnest sightline possible for the supporting steel mullions,” says Peter Frank Priola, AIA NCARB, and senior vice president of Mathes Brierre Architects.

The system is composed of an extruded aluminum glazing pocket mounted to a 1-inch wide steel plate mullion system. The taller vertical mullions, which span 33 feet, are 1-foot by 3-inches deep plate sections with a 5-inch wide flange at the inside face. The shorter vertical mullions are composed of 7-inch deep plate sections and the horizontal mullions are composed of 5-inch deep plate steel.

The Restoration Pavilion was created to house the restoration of a 50-foot PT boat. During the restoration process, the museum occasionally takes the boat to the water, which means it needs to be able to enter and exit the museum space. Because of the pavilion’s location along Magazine Street, a sliding door was not an option. New Orleans Glass created a demountable curtainwall system in which 8-foot by 22-foot unitized curtainwall panels are able to be demounted and then reassembled.

The Solomon Victory Theater is one of the highest-profile portions of the museum, featuring a large curtainwall open to the museum’s interior courtyard. The curtainwall features vertical mullions on 8-foot centers, with unsupported spans that are 35-feet tall. It was also designed to meet large-missile impact criteria for hurricane resistance. New Orleans Glass created custom curtainwall vertical mullions that are 18-inches deep fabricated from ¾-inch solid steel plates.

“We wanted to create sweeping views, with minimal sight lines,” says Priola.