The Cooper Union
School of Architecture
 
 
 
 
 

THAW CONSERVATION CENTER

Upon completion later this year, the Thaw Conservation Center will be a brand new, world class laboratory for conservation of works on paper as well as a magnet for conservation studies and training. The new Center will enable significant expansion of the Morgan Library’s capabilities and activities in the field of art conservation.

The Center is being created on the top floor of the only freestanding brownstone extant in New York City - a four story structure originated around 1855 and expanded around 1900. The challenges faced in the design of the Center were the Library’s request that the existing shallow roof line be maintained and the conservators requirement for ample northern light. In manners sympathetic to the modern processes of art conservation we decided to conserve as much as the existing roof structure as possible with judicious additions of discrete steel and wooden elements enabling us to transform the original framing into a series of elegant shed trusses. This was a considerable challenge since the old framing was not compliant with current code. The stringent climate control system stipulated a continuous air-vapor barrier around the entire envelope so we detailed the vapor barrier to be installed just above the original sheathing, but below the insulation, so that the entire original roof construction is now revealed and appreciated. The daylight provided by the existing window openings was terribly inadequate for the needs of the conservators so a series of skylights fully integrated with the vapor barrier detailing and roof framing were detailed to sit discretely on roof with adjustable solar louvers in order to control the amount of indirect light entering the space.

Over the decades, the original servant and nursery quarters had been modified many times, so there was virtually nothing of architectural or historical value to preserve. Wherever possible, we have exposed, restored and cleaned existing brick walls while installing relatively few new partitions. The layout of spaces achieves the appropriate arrangements of specialized furniture and equipment for wet and dry treatments, examinations, documentation, teaching, and research, while allowing considerable flexibility for evolving conservation practice.

SAMUEL ANDERSON
Visiting Professor, Adjunct Faculty