Historic Renovation of Benjamin Franklin Museum Brings Architect’s Vision to Life With Customized Solution from Saint-Gobain

  Historic Renovation of Benjamin Franklin Museum Brings Architect’s Vision to
  Life With Customized Solution from Saint-Gobain Glass

   Unique fritted glass preserves original landscape of iconic museum while
                       enhancing new visitor experience

Business Wire

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. -- September 20, 2013

The Benjamin Franklin Museum, part of Independence National Historical Park in
Philadelphia, officially re-opened to the general public today after a
two-year, $24 million renovation project that included updates to exhibits and
enhancements to the architectural design of the building. Saint-Gobain, one of
the world’s largest building materials companies, with North American
headquarters outside of Philadelphia in Valley Forge, provided a customized
glass solution for the museum through one of its subsidiaries, Saint-Gobain
Glass. The customized glass solution helped the design team achieve its main
goal of creating a more welcoming entrance to the museum. The company’s glass
was also used for an expansive glass window that will allow visitors inside
the museum for the first time to appreciate the exterior space once occupied
by Benjamin Franklin’s house marked by the iconic “Ghost Structure.”

“Saint-Gobain products are found in some of the most iconic cultural landmarks
around the world, from the Palace of Versailles to the Statue of Liberty, but
we are especially proud to have our glass featured in the Benjamin Franklin
Museum, a national memorial located in our backyard that pays tribute to one
of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who made contributions to our
everyday lives, much like Saint-Gobain does through its building materials,”
said John Crowe, President and CEO of Saint-Gobain in North America.

The Franklin Court complex was designed by world-famous architects Robert
Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and John Rauch for the 1976 Bicentennial. In 2011,
the National Park Service made the decision to renovate the Ben Franklin
Museum for the first time since the bicentennial and hired architectural firm
Quinn Evans Architects. Quinn Evans was tasked with designing a more inviting
and accessible entry that better accommodates visitors and museum staff.

The firm’s solution was to enclose space once sheltered by a canvas canopy
within a uniquely designed glass curtainwall. It permitted the architects to
create an entrance lobby and improve access to the underground museum. The
curtainwall recapitulates the Flemish bond pattern of Venturi’s brick garden
walls with glass “bricks” as large as eight feet in length. A custom ceramic
frit pattern is applied to the outer glass surface using images derived from
photos of the original hand-molded brick. “We searched for a special glass
manufacturer that could bring our vision to life,” said Carl Elefante, FAIA,
Principal at Quinn Evans. “Saint-Gobain made it possible for us to experiment
with the pattern, color, scale and application technique until we achieved a
visual effect that provides the right balance between transparency and

The process of creating the custom glass began with photographing the original
brick wall and developing physical mock-ups of the frit pattern during both
the design and construction phases. In order to create pieces of glass that
emulate the texture of brick, Saint-Gobain had to customize the glass by
moving the fritted layer, conventionally on the inner surface of glass, to the
outer surface and heat-fusing the frit to ensure durability. By moving the
frit to the outer surface it more effectively captures natural light as
conditions fluctuate throughout the day. With glass located at both the outer
and inner plane of the curtainwall framing, a “shadow box” effect is achieved,
further intensifying the play of light.

Saint-Gobain also provided glass for the very large window designed to provide
views of the Ghost House as visitors exit the exhibit. The view window is
fabricated with two 8’ by 16’ pieces of low-iron laminated glass, each
weighing approximately 1,200 pounds, that are joined by a single vertical
sealant joint in the middle.

“This project is a real testament to the diverse capabilities of Saint-Gobain
to allow architects the freedom to be creative and original with glass
design,” said Crowe. “The new glass designs for the Benjamin Franklin Museum
give visitors a glimpse into the life of the influential diplomat and inventor
from the start of their visit when they enter the museum until they exit,
providing an overlook onto the space of where Franklin’s house once stood.”

About Saint-Gobain in North America

Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, has its North
American headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. As the world leader in
sustainable habitat, Saint-Gobain is committed to inventing solutions to help
professionals and communities around the world build and renovate comfortable,
healthy, economical and energy-efficient buildings. The company has more than
265 locations in North America and approximately 19,000 employees. In the
United States and Canada, Saint-Gobain reported sales of approximately $7.9
billion in 2012.

Recognized as a 2009 and 2010 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Saint-Gobain earned the 2011, 2012 and 2013
ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition for
outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy
efficiency. For more information about Saint-Gobain in North America, visit
www.saint-gobain-northamerica.com and connect with the company on Facebook and


Saint-Gobain in North America:
Dina Silver Pokedoff, APR
610-341-7031 (office)
484-919-2103 (mobile)
Brownstein Group for Saint-Gobain in North America:
Laura Van De Pette, APR
267-238-4118 (office)
215-833-3458 (mobile)
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