Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion

There are a thousand reasons why a complex, cutting-edge project like the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion should fail. That it didn’t is a testament to the power of collaboration. Housing both a world-renowned glass collection and contemporary glassmaking studios, the pavilion brings the history of Toledo’s storied glass industry full circle, embodying state-of-the-art glass technology to create its undulating facade. Its walls of curved transparent glass seem to disappear, and there is little suggestion of the building’s complex structural system. What’s hidden in plain sight is the intense coordination needed to create this seamless and serene place.

SANAA’s entire design revolved around utilizing the largest curved laminated glass pieces available in the world, fabricated in a new plant in China. The critical mechanical systems that enabled the façade to be 100 percent glass in the cold Ohio environment and the engineering that allowed the roof structure to be as thin as possible (60-foot spans only 12 inches deep) required advanced technology and surgical coordination. This level of precision is only possible when a project has a powerful mission at its heart. Roger Berkowitz, the museum’s director, inspired everyone from the architect to the fabricators to the carpenter to understand what the building meant not just to the Toledo Museum of Art, but to the “Glass City.” Every member of the team felt honored to be a part of this historic building.

With a cost only $297 per square foot, the building stands as a testament to the power of simplicity and restraint at a time when both are in short supply.

Architect:  SANAA

Location:  Toledo, OH

Gross Square Footage:  75,615

Completion Date:  2006