The Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Courtesy Weidlinger Associates.

Rose Center for Earth and Space



Weidlinger Associates, which merged with Thornton Tomasetti in September 2015, provided structural engineering services for the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, which replaced the old Hayden Planetarium. The new, spherical Hayden Planetarium is enclosed in a mullionless six-story cube with tension-supported glass curtain walls. The structure is transparent on two sides and sits atop a two-story concrete base. The 87-foot-diameter Hayden Sphere appears to float inside the cube but is in fact supported by three pairs of 60-foot-long tapered steel legs. The legs also anchor a dramatic ramp that connects the sphere to the first level of the Museum. The top half of the sphere houses the Sky Theater, with its dome, and the bottom half houses the Big Bang Theater.

The size of the sphere ruled out the use of supporting columns. Instead, two-way roof trusses and unique wall trusses support the glass curtain walls. An ingenious vertical and horizontal tension-truss system that resists wind forces holds the panes of glass in place. The suspended glass curtain wall, entirely tension-supported, is among the first of its magnitude to be built in the United States. The hanger rods, arced rods, struts, and spiders that form the glass wall increase the aesthetic appeal of the entire structure. An adjacent, partially buried three-story parking structure for 300 vehicles is topped with a planted terrace and upper-level access to the Rose Center. In response to the expressed needs of the community, the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park was restored and the Museum’s Columbus Avenue entrance improved.

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