Kimbell Art Museum, Forth Worth, USA: The innovative roof, made from screen-printed insulating glass units for ideal thermal performance and UV protection, was created by façade specialist seele.


steel-and-glass construction

expanding an icon: new pavilion for kimbell art museum

Renzo Piano placed his independent extension to Kimbell Art Museum at a respectful distance from the famous structure designed by Louis Kahn. The new glass, concrete and timber composition, surrounded by elms and red oaks, is an impressive lesson in reduction and lightness. The form and materials of the new building reflect the character of the original pavilion and create a new entrance setting: Visitors emerge from the underground car park into a garden between the old and new buildings and then enter the new pavilion via the foyer on the long eastern side between two galleries. The glass façade on the east side allows visitors an unobstructed view of Kahn’s masterpiece; on the other side visitors can see the new, partly subterranean west wing. Two glass tunnels link the eastern and western parts of the museum.

  • From the start, seele worked with the architect and the structural engineers to design all the details for the challenging steel-and-glass elements (total area approx. 4,500sqm). The spacious museum foyer has been given a self-supporting glass fin façade designed by seele. One special detail is the narrow vertical joints hidden behind glazing bars designed by Renzo Piano.

    The roof structure to the above-ground museum extension consists of 30 pairs of glued laminated timber beams that are supported on reinforced concrete columns and span the full 30m of the building. Bent panes of glass supplied by seele close off the openings between the beams. The panes are isolated from the timber beams because the movement and torsion values of the beams could not be defined. Therefore, seele carried out minimum/maximum calculations to quantify the anticipated variations and designed flexible connections based on a large number of built-in sliding bearings and special details. Mounted above the glass are frames for the movable photovoltaic louvres that provide shade. The louvres are fixed to channels that are in turn attached to the glulam beams.

    Reference overview and Header image: © Nic Lehoux

From outside, the self-supporting glass fin façade with its extremely narrow vertical joints allows exciting views of the museum’s foyer, and from inside equally exciting views of the surrounding park. © Nic Lehoux
The steel glass roof literally penetrates the external walls of the museum and therefore breaks up the visual boundary between exhibition areas and open surroundings. © Nic Lehoux
In the absence of defined movement and torsion values for the glulam roof beams, seele’s engineers based their design on min./max. calculations and a steel glass roof supported on sliding bearings and special details. © Nic Lehoux
Specially treated glass for the façades and roof enabled seele to retain the natural properties of daylight almost completely while reducing both UV transmittance and solar gains to meet the specification. © Nic Lehoux

A seele building envelope with a feeling for art, light and protection

Natural lighting conditions provide the best visual setting for valuable exhibits. At the same time, preserving such exhibits calls for special protection. seele has achieved both these objectives by designing a building envelope that ensures a lighting quality ideal for the exhibits and at the same time reliable protection. The insulating glass units themselves can withstand extreme weathers such as hail. However, they also protect the galleries against excessive UV radiation and solar gains. This filter effect is achieved by foils laminated into the glass and by real or simulated acid-etching. Despite all these measures, natural lighting conditions still prevail, with a colour rendering index >96. In addition, the amount of incoming light can be adjusted by moving the photovoltaic louvres mounted above the roof panes. This concept therefore achieves outstanding daylight conditions in the interior and also satisfies all the museum’s requirements regarding thermal performance and UV protection.

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The steel glass roof with its bent insulating glass units is supported on the glulam beams of the primary structure via sliding bearings. Real or simulated acid-etching of the glass scatters the incoming light. © Nic Lehoux
Mounted above the steel glass roof structure are 2,403 movable photovoltaic louvres covering a roof area of about 1,000sqm. The louvres can be moved to adjust the amount of daylight and at the same time produce approx. 1.4MWh of electricity.
The steel glass roof cantilevers well beyond the sides of the building, appearing to float above the glulam beams. The delicate design gives the extension the lightness associated with a pavilion.


Client Kimbell Art Museum
Main contractor Beck Group, Fort Worth, USA
Architect Renzo Piano
Date of completion 2013
Scope of work by seele
  • 4,500sqm steel glass design
  • Photovoltaic louvres