Not many places are known globally by an acronym, but New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one; the museum embarked on an ambitious transformation over the last five years that would, in the words of principal architect Yoshio Taniguchi, “transform MoMA into a bold new museum, while maintaining its historical, cultural and social context.”
The last element of this 63,000-square-foot project is the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, which officially opened Nov. 28, 2006. With this, the museum increases its space for research and education and completes Taniguchi’s original vision.
According to a MoMA press release, this area, known as the Education and Research Building, surpasses expectations.
“The eight-story, 63,000-square-foot building is designed to mirror the gallery building across the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden on the west side of its campus, with the dynamic interplay between the two serving as a visual reminder of the Museum’s twin missions of art and education,” the release reads.
The new educational facilities offer resources for professionals and the public. Researchers can access one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections in the Department of Film and Media; the Departments of Painting and Sculpture, Architecture and Design; and MoMA’s Library and Museum Archives.
Education, film and media programs are available through classroom/workshop areas, an 125-seat Celeste Bartos Theater and a 51-seat Time Warner Screening Room. Both have capacity for 16mm, 35mm, digital film, media and lecture projection with surround sound and integrated computerized control and assisted audio systems for the hearing impaired.
Quantum leaps in
The first phase of this grand rebirth began with the move to a temporary exhibition space in Queens—MoMA QNS—to keep MoMA’s vital collection and programs open to the public during the duration of the renovation and expansion project in Manhattan. This is where Quantum Electric Corp., based in Long Island City, N.Y., started its relationship with the museum.
“We got our first opportunity with MoMA to install the telecom and systems work at MoMA QNS. It was right in our backyard, and we were very excited to be a part of such an important project. We worked very hard to demonstrate our capabilities to MoMA.
Although we have been very fortunate for the many opportunities it has led to over the years, we still maintain that initial enthusiasm and sense of awe,” said Richard Sobel, a principal of Quantum.
Quantum is a full-service electrical contracting company founded in 1997 by Sobel and partner Gary J. Glass.
“From the start, we have strived to differentiate our firm by taking on challenging projects where our people and skills shine through,” Sobel said.
The MoMA QNS project and the first phase of the museum expansion project allowed Quantum to get in place for the education building project, due to its intimate knowledge of the museum’s high standards and existing systems.
“Just because we worked on earlier projects did not mean the education building was handed to us. We used our knowledge to give the museum the best price and greatest value,” Sobel said.
The work that Quantum did on the education building was not only challenging but of the utmost importance to the forward momentum of the museum and its operations.
“As far as management goes, Rich Sobel took great pains to make sure we felt taken care of. His on-site team, headed by Mark Biesiadecki proved reliable, knowledgeable and flexible—an absolute must for any construction project,” said Kim Donovan, MoMA’s information technology project manager for the education center, while describing the working relationship with Quantum.
Quantum was in charge of the systems work, which roughly divided into telecommunications, security and audiovisual.
The telecommunications system included all voice and data horizontal drops, backbone cabling and intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closet fit-outs. In addition, a copper and fiber link to the main computer room and other buildings on the campus was installed to integrate the whole system.
Quantum built seven IDFs featuring Hubbell connectivity, equipment racks, a horizontal/vertical ladder rack system, and copper and fiber patch panels. Roughly 250,000-square-feet of Cat 6 unshielded twisted pair cable was installed for the telecommunications system to serve approximately 250 new workstations.
“We also installed 10 consolidation points consisting of six-strand fiber optic cable, six Cat 6 cables and 10 four-pair twisted shielded pair cables for audio, enabling the museum’s staff to connect portable equipment throughout the facility,” Sobel said. “They have used these points with great success in the main museum to adapt the infrastructure to the changing exhibitions and events.”
The backbone cabling, which consists of 252 strands of single-mode fiber optic cable, 228 strands of multimode fiber optic cable and 800 pairs of copper cable, was run from the new facility to the existing data center approximately one-quarter of a mile away. The largest portion of Quantum’s contract in the education building was the audiovisual system.
“MoMA and their general contractor on the project, Stucturetone, had the confidence to entrust us with overseeing all aspects of the AV fit out,” Sobel said. “This led us to handle portions of the project that were extraordinary for an electrical contractor, such as screens, drapery and film projection equipment. Fortunately, we assembled the same excellent team of subcontractors that we worked with on the two film theaters in the museum. There were thousands of components to purchase, assemble, wire, program and test.”
These theaters are instrumental in promoting the museum’s mission of education; they are also used for lectures and presentations and they could be used to showcase MoMA’s film collections, which is one of the largest in the world.
Many of the smaller portions of the audiovisual system are just as noteworthy. The highly sophisticated Louis B. Mayer Screening Room, though small in size with a seating capacity of only 12, is a state-of-the-art audio/videophile’s dream.
Electronic signage is used throughout the public space and a high-fidelity paging system is suitable for event music or public address. There are a variety of conference rooms and classrooms where the audiovisual system integrates to the data network, enabling video teleconferencing or interactive distance learning.
The general construction of the spaces had to be almost complete before the equipment could be installed, commissioned and acceptance tested. In addition to the education building project, Quantum worked with MoMA to complete a series of departmental moves into the new museum and reconfigurations of the temporary spaces. A fast-track renovation of the museum’s second floor café was running full steam in the last seven weeks of the schedule. It was a complicated dance where no dates could be missed without creating a ripple of delays.
“At one point near the end of the education facility build out, we had over two dozen projects in progress in the museum simultaneously. We absolutely thrive on the pressure. With proper planning and support, it is a terrific motivator and offers a great chance to demonstrate what we can do,” Sobel said.
MoMA’s Donovan offered effusive praise for the Quantum team. “The education building was a big job in a small timeframe—the entire thing was a challenge from top to bottom,” Donovan said. “Our [telecom] closets are gorgeous, the equipment impeccable, and they always came at you with a solid streamlined solution-—no matter the size of the problem.”
STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.