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Building  a  work  of  art: Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin

By: MaryBeth Matzek//May 3, 2012//

Building  a  work  of  art: Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin

By: MaryBeth Matzek//May 3, 2012//

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Photo by © Anton Grassl/ Esto

Chazen Museum demands perfection from contractors

Working on the expansion of the Chazen Museum of Art in the middle of the University of Wisconsin campus was something completely new for Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.

Not only were they working in a highly visible spot, they also had to be conscious of their surroundings and proximity to millions of dollars’ worth of art. And that was all before even starting on the job.

“We were working with so many different high-end materials on this project and there were so many details to tend to,” said Jason Jones, a project manager with J.H. Findorff & Son.

Those details — such as interior bronze metal panels that were left outside of the building for six months to weather — are just a part of the $43 million project that doubled the size of the Chazen’s gallery space.

The addition is connected to the original Harry Weese-designed building via a third-floor gallery bridge that frames a section of a new pedestrian mall. A floor to ceiling glass mezzanine along the bridge’s north side provides a dramatic view that extends to Lake Mendota.

The new building echoes the stonework and strong lines of the existing architecture, creating a contiguous façade as well as a unified interior gallery plan.

“The building’s stone exterior is the most striking part of this project,” Jones said.

Cladding transitions were used to tie in the existing building from rough face stone to smooth face stone, and eventually smooth concave stone.

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Since the project was an art museum, everything “had to be perfect,” said Arden Parfitt, Faith Technologies’ project manager.

“We were working with so many different finishes on the walls and ceilings,” he said. “For example, there were ceiling tiles that were five feet by 11 feet. That’s quite unusual.”

And as the addition was connected to the original building, security was a concern while work was underway.

“We had to keep everything safe in the museum throughout the construction project,” Parfitt said. “We were still doing some tweaks as art was being moved in, too.”

The finished project provides a great connection point, Jones said, between the university and the community.

“It was a great project to be involved with,” he said. “It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind building and was exciting to work on.”

— MaryBeth Matzek

Photo by Kevin Harnack

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Location: Madison

Submitting companies: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., Madison; Faith Technologies Inc., Menasha; Continuum Architects and Planners SC, Milwaukee

General contractor: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc

Architects: Continuum Architects and Planners SC (managing); Machado Silvetti Associates LLC, Boston (design)

Engineers: Ring & DuChateau Inc., Milwaukee (HVAC, electrical, telecommunications); Graef-USA Inc., Milwaukee (structural); Bloom Companies LLC, Milwaukee (civil); PSJ Engineering Inc., Madison (plumbing and fire protection)

Owners: Chazen Museum of Art, Madison; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Wisconsin Department of State Facilities, Madison

Project size: 86,800 square feet

Project cost: $43 million

Start date: June 2009

Completion date: October 2011


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