Expansion of The National World War II Museum Continues

30 May 2011

Expansion of The National World War II Museum Continues

The National World War II Museumhas grown from a local treasure to a national treasure. Expansion is underway as Woodward Design+Build constructs the new Land, Sea & Air Pavilion , just one of the many projects in the museum’s master plan.

The Times-Picayune

National World War II Museum ready to expand

The Times-Picayune

30 May 2011

By Bruce Eggler, The Times-Picayune NOLA.com

Even as they celebrate Memorial Day today and prepare for the opening Saturday of the new Restoration Pavilion, leaders of the National World War II Museum are looking down the road to future stages of their $300 million expansion project.

The expansion site is on the upriver side of Andrew Higgins. A pedestrian bridge across that street will link the expansion to the original museum building.

The museum, which opened in June 2000 as the National D-Day Museum and was renamed in 2006, is widely seen as one of the city’s brightest achievements in recent years. It has been designated by Congress as the nation’s official World War II museum.

“We are building one of the great, great museums of the world,” Bob Farnsworth, the museum’s senior vice president for capital programs, told the commission.

The museum, however, will be somewhat smaller than was envisioned several years ago. One planned building, the U.S. Pavilion at Camp and Andrew Higgins, has been eliminated, and some floors have been cut from other buildings. All told, the expansion project is being reduced by 98,000 square feet of combined floor area, to about 179,000 square feet.

Some of the remaining planned buildings have been rotated around the central “parade ground” to fill up the space where the U.S. Pavilion would have been.

In addition to the Restoration Pavilion, which will let visitors see how World War II artifacts are restored and preserved, and the already opened Victory Theater, American Sector restaurant and Stage Door Canteen entertainment venue, those buildings will include the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: Land, Sea and Air; the Campaigns Pavilion; and the Liberation Pavilion.

There also have been changes in the design of the giant fabric-and-steel canopy that will stretch 540 feet from the original museum building to near the upriver end of the expansion site, shading the parade ground and helping link the collection of buildings together.

The canopy, which is designed to withstand 130-mph winds, originally was to be supported by a 318-foot-high tripod structure and a 105-foot column. The latest redesign brings down the highest point from 318 feet to 150 feet. However, the portion of the canopy extending over Andrew Higgins, at the downriver end of the expansion, will be raised from the previously planned 115 feet to 130 feet.

“The canopy revision was really an evolution in the design and not an effort to reduce the height,” Farnsworth said.

Museum leaders expect the canopy to become “an icon for the city,” a unique visual landmark similar to the Superdome.

Andrew Higgins also will be crossed by a pedestrian bridge linking the current museum with the expansion.

Meanwhile, at the project’s upriver end, next to Calliope Street and the elevated Pontchartrain Expressway, the height of the U.S. Freedom Pavilion will grow from 80 feet to 105 feet. Architect Scott Evans said that will accommodate the display of a B-17 bomber, made possible by a donation from the Boeing Co.

Farnsworth said museum leaders hope to complete the entire expansion project by 2015 but “still need to raise a lot of money to make it happen.” The U.S. Freedom Pavilion is due for completion by October 2012, he said, to be followed a year later by the Campaigns Pavilion. The Liberation Pavilion, a special exhibits building and renovations to the existing buildings “will follow subject to funding,” he said.

The Planning Commission approved the requested changes in heights and design. The City Council, which has the final decision, is expected to do likewise.

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