On this date, April 7, the National Museum of Women in the Arts opened in 1987 in a former Masonic Temple, originally constructed in 1903. Fun fact: the renovation and adaptive reuse of this Renaissance Revival-style building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was President Bob Marino’s first project when he joined Mueller Associates.
“It was a fascinating project,” Bob says reminiscently. “It was quite a challenge to transform this old building, with no central air, no insulation, and a building envelope that clearly hadn’t been designed to maintain strict temperature and humidity control, and create a museum environment. I was directly supporting Gene Nerf, who was then vice president at Mueller. Gene was a brilliant engineer so I learned a great deal. We worked closely with Keyes, Condon, Florence (now SmithGroup ) to preserve the building’s historic fabric as we routed all the new piping and ductwork through the structure. All the drawings were prepared by hand; this was before CADD. Locating the original construction drawings on velum from the early 1900s provided us with vital information.”
A main concern involved the building’s acoustics. “With all of the marble and hard reflective surfaces throughout the building, including the grand stairs, there was a lot of concern about the acoustics,” Bob says. “We had the chillers and air handling units in the basement and when the acoustician was ready to take acoustical measurements, he called out to us to turn the HVAC system on. He was shocked to find out we had already done so—the systems were that quiet!” The building’s new owners also modernized it in another interesting way. “As it was formerly the Masonic Temple, the original building had no women’s restrooms—those had to be added.” More than three decades later, Bob still recalls the project fondly: “It was an ambitious project, but the end result was exceptional and one that I am proud of.”