Providing Innovative Solutions to Creative Precast Designs

Architectural Precast Concrete, Thinshell, and GFRC - Willis Construction Co, Inc.

Broad Museum

Los Angeles, CA

Broad Art Foundation

Diller Scofidio Renfro

Executive Architect:

Nabih Youssef & Associates

Matt Construction Co.

Project Highlights:
-120,000 square ft. 2500 individual panels
-The Museum's airy "veil" that features hundreds of conical light openings, was achieved using glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels.
-The use of GFRC enabled the creation of complicated 3-D shapes out of concrete while keeping the weight of the facade to a minimum.
-The entire structure was designed with 3-D modeling software.
-2015 PCI National Award Winner

Precast Products:
Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete

Article from: PCI National Award Submittal

The new Broad Museum, in Los Angeles, Calif., looks like a white wedding veil sparkling against the blue California sky. Indeed, the structure has been dubbed "the veil and the vault" by designers who created the unique facade to wrap around the museum's two key spaces: the public exhibition space and the archive/storage space that will support the foundation's extensive lending activities.

The vault is enveloped on all sides by an airy, cellular exoskeleton structure made up of 2500 glass-fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels and 650 tons of steel lifts that span across the block-long gallery; it provides filtered natural daylight. "The process of making the formwork for the uniquely shaped panels was a key factor in the success of this GFRC application," says David Pakshong of Gensler, the executive architect on the project. Choosing a product with the demands for hundreds of different unique curved shapes for the exterior skin was a big challenge for the design team. Creating hundreds of conical light openings for the building and replicating the front oculus from a parabolic curve would need a product that was flexible and versatile to adapt to this design shape.

The designers created complete geometric information for each panel in three-dimensional (3-D) computer models first. The precast concrete producer imported this data directly into the tool path software to create instructions for the five-axis, computerized-numerical control machine to carve molds out of high-density foam. Before skinning in fiberglass, the foam molds were sanded and sealed to create the negative formwork for the GFRC panels. "The versatility of this rapid prototyping supported the timely resolution of many complex geometric conditions," Pakshong says.

The high strength of the GFRC skin ensured the additional strength required for the structurally unique shapes. The skin strength and durability allowed for smaller tube framing for the skins, which helped accommodate tight tolerances for panel placement to the structural steel. The panel strength also meets the long life and durability requirements needed at the ground floor where the public has access. "GFRC proved to be the most cost-effective of all the materials analyzed, while meeting the schedule and durability requirements," Pakshong says.

The frames had to be fabricated to tight tolerances so the locations of the components and connection points were checked with a total station survey before and after welding. The survey data was imported back into the 3-D model of the frame to verify accuracy. Before spraying the skin, the frames were positioned on the mold, surveyed, and verified against the model. Then the setting jigs were locked into position, and the frames were removed. This step in the process was never required before. The skins were sprayed, and then the frames were replaced into the jigs and resurveyed. Finally, they did a full 3-D scan of the finished product to ensure compliance with the model.

Pakshong sees this building as one of the more innovative projects he has ever been a part of. He says, "After four years of working on the building, I am still surprised by the ability of the architecture to challenge the way we understand space."


Willis Construction is one of the leading Architectural Precast Concrete manufacturers and installers in the Western United States. We are dedicated to providing Owners, Architects, and General Contractors with the design and engineering expertise necessary to meet the building challenges of today and the future. The quality, durability, and long life of Architectural Precast Concrete, Thinshell, and GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) systems provide a wide range of design options for virtually every type of building. Contact us to decide which system would be best suited for your next project.

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Willis Construction, San Juan Bautista, CA: We are Precast Concrete and GFRC Specialists Willis Construction has been providing Architectural Precast Concrete building panels and products to the construction industry since 1979. Willis Construction has consistently risen to meet the changing and challenging needs of the construction industry with innovative and creative precast concrete design solutions. We have had the opportunity to work with excellent Owners, Contractors, Architects and Engineers. We are qualified, competent, competitive, enjoy our work, and are good team members for any project. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.


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