façade area

mfa – museum of fine arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, houses one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the United States. It was in 1999 that Lord Norman Foster was awarded the contract to redevelop and refurbish the two historical entrance settings and the visitor centre and design a new exhibition wing. He placed prominent blocks at the ends of the two side wings. In the new north-south axis, a central glass-roofed atrium links the existing buildings and at the same time forms the entrance to the new end blocks and the new Art of the Americas Wing.

  • seele built the new roof on the existing steelwork to the atrium and closed off the open sides with glass cable-net façades. These comply with high energy-efficiency requirements and the museum’s special lighting specification: no UV light and a high level of daylight with natural colour rendering. Computer simulations enabled condensation scenarios to be studied. The results of the simulations governed the design of the glazing: double and triple glazing and at particularly exposed places a low E-coating as well. This faithful response to the particular conditions in situ reliably prevents condensation collecting on the inside of the panes.

    A constructional trick was also necessary for transferring the wind loads: Horizontal cable backstays absorb a large part of the wind load and therefore enable a very slender cross-section for the vertical steel sections, which are just 120mm x 60mm.

    The work to the end blocks was also exceptional. Completely prefabricated, including the glazing, they were delivered in containers and lifted into position on the façade by crane. Stepped insulating glass units combined with structural silicone joints produce a flush appearance that harmonises well with the large-format stone slabs.

    Reference overview, header, 1st & 4th slide image © Museum of Fine Arts

    2nd, 3rd & 5th slide image © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners


Client Museum of Fine Arts
Architect Foster + Partners
Engineer Buro Happold
Structural planning Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
Date of completion 2009
Scope of seele supply
  • approx. 2,200sqm roof glazing
  • approx. 4,500sqm façade glazing
  • approx. 1,500sqm window elements
  • approx. 220t secondary steel
  • 6 double-leaf doors