DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Architecture Is Fun

Posted in Architecture Is Fun on February 9, 2016 10:07 am EST

Floods and Faith: Restoring an Innovative Museum

Problems happen with projects. It's what we do with them and how we respond that makes a difference -- for the client, the project, and for ourselves.

DuPage Children's Museum, Naperville, Ill. Images courtesy of Architecture is Fun.









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TAGS: adaptive reuse, architectural design, business collaboration, community connection, flood, interior design, restoration,


By Peter Exley, FAIA, and Sharon Exley, MAAE, ASID

Peter Exley, FAIA, RIBA, loves stories of time travel, with all their fantastic visions of moving through the fourth dimension. Sixteen years ago [our] design architecture firm, Architecture Is Fun based in Chicago, transformed a discarded retail lumber warehouse into a vibrant children’s museum. The museum's architecture, exhibits, and big red door embodied an important philosophical message – everything and everyone has value and creative potential. It took over three years, effective leadership, and a very large team to envision, conceptualize, design, prototype, test, build, and install our work at DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville, Ill.). With great anticipation, our studio procured one of the museum’s countdown clocks to opening.

From adaptive reuse to restoration

Fast forward to January 2015 and the museum’s devastating flood. On a frigid night, a pipe on the third floor burst, sending thousands of gallons of water gushing into the galleries below.

In the days that followed, the museum worked diligently to remove and save what they could, yet bad things happen. Damage began to reveal itself. By March, we were fully onboard to restore and re-imagine the interior architecture and damaged galleries. We emptied our storage locker of three file storage boxes, large tubes of drawings, many sketches, documentation, and at least six 4-inch black binders. We advised the museum to bring back team members with familiarity of the building, including the original general contractor. Time is decidedly relative -- and the countdown clock had already begun.

Partner with manufacturers whose quality products had been in place to shorten lead times. Build on the expertise of others. Get help. Accept risk. Bring your sense of humor to the table....

Tick Tock. Engage the team. Tell new stories. Design in 4D – look at permutations and process simultaneously. Choose flooring in the morning with the contractor and with museum facilities staff. Detail a shadow and light experience in afternoon with exhibit team. Check front desk shop drawings with floor staff. Envision a new art studio with educators, exhibit managers, developers and museum senior staff. Have finance approve and facilitate furniture, fixture and finishes orders. Keep the director, board and staff well informed. Design-build with patient and highly qualified exhibit fabricator. Partner with manufacturers whose quality products had been in place to shorten lead times. Ask an artist, to “do it.” Build on the expertise of others. Get help. Accept risk. Stack the deck in your favor. Bring your sense of humor and your A game to the table – and have everyone do the same.  continued >>