The heart of rock and roll
BY NIKI SWANK
After 15 years and nearly nine million visitors from across the globe, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum began a major redesign to improve the visitor experience. The redesign project at the Rock Hall, designed by architect I.M. Pei, had three major goals: to tell the story of rock and roll in a more chronological fashion, to improve wayfinding and to upgrade all technology to state of the art.
The storytelling was much improved by the completion of the $7.2 million redesign, led by Westlake Reed Leskosky and The Albert M. Higley Company. Patrons are now directed through a redesigned main lobby and ticketing center by large banners with images of Jimi Hendrix and Elvis showing the way. Redesigning the building directories on each floor, changing the direction of the escalators, and installing a 50-foot red carpet all helped improve the flow to both the Ahmet M. Ertegun Main Exhibition Hall and the
Hall of Fame on the third level.
“The original wayfinding signs were subtle in scale, color and contrast. Some people would even miss entire areas of the museum, in some part due to a lack of effective wayfinding,” says Joshua Haney LEED AP, associate, project director of Westlake Reed Leskosky. The new museum signage is a vibrant blue, while red signs lead to the Hall of Fame, where visitors can view all inductees’ signatures etched in glass.
Paul Westlake Jr., FAIA, managing principal and a lead designer of Westlake Reed Leskosky, says the design team was able to change the first impression of the museum by transforming the previously dark space at the threshold of the Ertegun exhibition hall and Mystery Train Theater. Signage now describes why the museum is in Cleveland, surrounded by larger-than-life-size images of iconic inductees in bold graphics. The theater now features a marquee with lettering in white lights and a video panel describing the movie.
The 21,500-sf of renovations to the exhibit hall also feature an updated digital signage system and introduction panels to differentiate the exhibits from each other. Exhibits such as The Early Influences, Roots of Rock and Roll, Cities and Sounds and On the Air: Rock and Roll Radio were replaced or freshened up and made more accessible, and new exhibit cases featuring
Midwest artists entitled Kick Out the Jams and Cleveland Rocks! were added.
“Display cases which were previously not accessible without the help of a third-party glazer were replaced or modified with a dual track system, allowing the glass panels to easily slide side to side. This makes entry into the cases by museum staff faster, safer, more efficient and less expensive,” says Haney. All signs and texts in the renovated exhibits were also replaced to meet ADA guidelines.
A key component of the redesigned main exhibit hall is a new Beatles exhibit, the most comprehensive in the world. It features their 13 studio-released
albums in an audio/visual display, John Lennon’s piano and vibrant graphics.
Haney says the exhibit area also features a new DMX addressable smart- track system with a combination of LED and halogen lamps. The LED lights provide general illumination while preserving artifacts, and the halogen spotlights highlight important artifacts where accurate color rendering is important. “The new lamps have a much longer life than that of the previous installation, meaning facility staff will spend less time replacing bulbs. The energy used in the new lighting design is significantly less than the one previously installed. Pair that with the fact that lamps will be replaced less frequently, and the new lighting design will pay for itself in only a few years,” he says.
The Cities and Sounds exhibit gallery is unique because it features scenes from different cities, casework displays and audio music relating to that specific area, explains Westlake. Since the exhibit was in a huge hallway with six speakers playing different songs at the same time, it was hard to focus on individual songs. The design team created directional audio to eliminate sound spread by finding narrow speakers. Westlake says it was important to use the right technology at the right place with the right effect; the design team was able to find solutions through multi-disciplinary, integrated design.
Haney says it was also a challenge to do all of this on budget. “To completely isolate each exhibit from the other acoustically would have required a complete gut and rebuild of the major exhibit hall on the lower level. The budget would not allow for this,” says Haney.
The second level of the hall features seven interactive kiosks containing Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll and One-Hit Wonders interactive exhibits, images of iconic inductees including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Prince, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith and the Supremes, and listening stations installed in the Architects of Rock and Roll exhibit.
The collaborative design process began during the summer of 2008, when the design team presented drawings, sketches, 3D computer modeling and graphics that would be critiqued by the museum team. The main goal was to convey how the history of rock and roll could be told. Haney says that it was important to keep in mind how the various areas of construction could remain imperceptible to visitors. Westlake Reed Leskosky created a complete virtual simulation of the museum that included everything from color and graphics to finishes and carpet. The modeling allowed the museum team to know what they were getting and be satisfied with the end result.
One of the most important components of the redesign process was to allow the museum to remain open and to minimize disruptions to the visitor experience. Solving this challenge wasn’t easy, but it was accomplished through simple solutions, according to Westlake. The design team observed human behavior firsthand from the museum balcony and realized how the flow could be reinvented. It also designed a linear path in the exhibit hall to make sure areas weren’t missed. Haney is proud visitors are now better informed about the traffic flow through the museum--and that the project was completed on time and under budget.
Can’t buy me love
The Albert M. Higley Company served as the CM and collaborated with the team before the end of the design development phase in the fall of 2009 to assist with cost estimating. Dave Meehan, senior project manager with the CM, worked with the design and museum team and performed multiple cost studies and developed cost saving alternates to help keep within budget without cutting any of the wish-list items.
Meehan also worked with the museum to make sure the construction schedule included dismantling and reinstalling the artifacts. “The trick was to not have too many of the exhibits shut down at any given time and to maintain a flow through the museum to minimize any disruptions. There were also important times of the year, like Christmas break, where we minimized the exhibits that were under construction, and the museum’s busy time during the summer, where we stopped construction altogether,” says LEED green associate and project manager Russel Goettemoeller, in charge of the construction process.
Construction began in September 2010 in five phases so the museum could remain operational. The first four were complete by May 2011, and the construction team then took the summer off and resumed construction of the last phase after Labor Day 2011, completing it by the end of October.
The construction team worked selectively on three to five exhibits at one time during evenings from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. to prevent visitors from hearing construction noise. All of the planning took place during the day, including material deliveries, says Goettemoeller. Coordination meetings with the museum staff were held once a week at 6 p.m., and subcontractors came in early and stayed late to help manage the process. The construction manager’s superintendent, Mike Locke, coordinated the field activities, including the installation of the metal studs and drywall work along with some of the carpentry. He also worked around the many private parties and events held after hours at the museum to minimize the disruption.
The construction schedule lasted 12 months, and 26 different exhibits were
renovated under their own mini-schedules from 3 to 12 weeks. Goettemoeller says questions had to be answered and decisions made in a relatively quick time frame, or the schedule for a particular exhibit could be adversely affected.
“Many of the exhibits were complicated, and they required extensive coordination,” he says. “We built mockups to test the lighting and audiovisual systems and the display cases. Programming of the lighting and AV systems with the dimming and show controllers was required. We retrofitted existing display cases to make them easily accessible.”
The construction team had to keep the renovated spaces dust free; in most cases the areas undergoing renovations were steps away from exhibits still open to the public. Eight-foot-tall dark grey temporary partitions were constructed to blend in with the museum’s wall color, and plastic was installed from the top of the partitions to the ceiling and taped at the seams. HEPA machines were also used to create negative air pressure and filter the air inside the exhibits being renovated.
The construction team maintained the overall schedule and overcame a few obstacles along the way. For example, a solid concrete wall had to be demolished in the old ticketing area, and ductwork buried in walls had to be removed or reworked.
Goettemoeller says it has been an amazing experience to work on such a great project. “There are not many people that can say that they have renovated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. There was a real team atmosphere on the project and everyone truly wanted what was best for the museum.” He is also proud of using local contractors who stepped up to take on this unique challenge. BXM
Niki Swank is a BX researcher and follows the Ohio
construction marketplace closely.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Developer and owner: Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame and Museum
Architect: Westlake Reed Leskosky
CM: The Albert M. Higley Co.
Cost: $7.2 million
EPI of Cleveland
Frank Novak and Sons
Icon Investigations and Security
Lake Erie Electric
Rosby Resource Recycling
Sunny Window Films
Smith & Oby
Vista Color Imaging