In collaboration with façade consultant Front Inc., REX Architecture designed a façade of ½-inch translucent marble slabs sandwiched between glass and fabricated into insulating glass units. Each of the 4,896 IGUs measures 5 feet by 3 feet and weighs 295 pounds. Photo Courtesy of Iwan Baan.

Anyone who’s been in lower Manhattan over the past year or so has likely seen what appears to be a large marble cube. While stone does play an essential role in the façade, it’s not acting alone. Designed by REX Architecture, this 129,000-square-foot cube is the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC). What looks like marble is, in fact, a unique glazing system.

The PAC NYC ribbon cutting took place Sept. 13, 2023, 22 years and two days post-9/11.

In collaboration with façade consultant Front Inc., REX designed a façade of ½-inch translucent marble slabs sandwiched between glass and fabricated into insulating glass units (IGU). Each of the 4,896 IGUs measures 5 feet by 3 feet and weighs 295 pounds. The panels allow daylight inside while upholding energy performance and protecting the marble from the elements.

Through a process called “bookmatching,” REX composed the panels so that the marble veining forms a biaxially symmetric pattern, which repeats on all four sides of the building. Photo courtesy of Gartner.

Josef Gartner (Gartner), part of the Permasteelisa Group, was the façade contractor tasked with meeting those requirements. AGC Interpane was responsible for laminating the glass-stone panels and fabricating the IGUs.

Through a process called “bookmatching,” REX composed the panels so that the marble veining forms a biaxially symmetric pattern, which repeats on all four sides of the building. During the day, sunlight passes through the façade, imparting the amber glow of the marble onto the interior. This amber glow is reversed at night as the façade is lit from within.

“We took a photograph of every single panel and had a virtual layout that REX designed, clearly identifying every piece’s specific location on the building,” says Wolfgang Rudolph, Gartner’s director of project management. “We had to manage almost 5,000 panels to ensure every piece was in the exact location where REX designed it to be. Ensuring that there wasn’t one in the wrong spot of all those pieces was a logistic challenge.”

In addition to the panels, Gartner installed the facade support steel, which included 35-meter-long steel beams.

“We needed to hang those steel beams and adjust them to the right location. Next, we installed the curtainwall units,” says Rudolph. This process took about nine months. From the outside, only the curtainwall units are visible, he explains. “From the inside, you see the long steel beams about every 1.5 meters.”

REX’s involvement with the PAC NYC began during the design competition in 2014, with the commission awarded the following year. Construction began in 2019.

In 2021, Joshua Ramus was included in USGlass magazine’s listing of the industry’s most influential people. He mentioned the PAC NYC in that issue as being among his proudest achievements:

“The first ‘marble-glass’ façade panels of The Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center are just being installed. Few outside our industry will appreciate the technical and logistical complexities of laminating 12-mm slabs of marble into the outer layer of 4,896 5- x 3-foot insulating glass units  … or the difficulty of composing them into four identical, bookmatched facades parallel to their fabrication.”

For more details and an extensive report on the PAC NYC, look to the upcoming October 2023 issue of USGlass magazine.

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