Franklin Institute Undergoes Addition, Retrofit Project

PHILADELPHIA — New York-headquartered Skanska USA topped out at The Franklin Institute’s Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, a 53,000-square-foot addition on the south side of the Philadelphia museum, signifying the project’s structural completion. Philadelphia-based SaylorGregg Architects is serving as the architect.

This is the institute’s first major renovation and expansion project in more than 20 years. Set to open in June 2014, the addition will include an education and conference center, the Frank Baldino Jr. Gallery and a special exhibition gallery for limited engagements. The building’s exterior will feature landscaping that mitigates stormwater drainage and a stainless steel kinetic “shimmer wall” by artist Ned Kahn, as well as a new terrace with seating and rain gardens.

The addition gives the institute space to expand its educational impact, with programs that give children in underserved communities a chance to engage with science and technology. The 8,500-square-foot “Your Brain” exhibit presented by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., for instance, is a permanent exhibit that showcases the study and understanding of the human brain. The new space will also attract internationally recognized traveling exhibitions, which helps add to the local economy.

The construction project also includes a relocation of the parking garage exit to the south elevation of the Mandell Center, which moves it away from the pavilion’s building footprint. Plus, the building’s chilled and condensing water systems are being updated by replacing chillers, cooling towers and associated pumps.

The pavilion is being built to LEED Silver standards, and the Skanska construction team has recycled more than 97 percent of the waste removed from the site. As of now, the project is 45 percent complete, with construction completion planned for December 2013. Installation of the “Your Brain” exhibition will begin in November.

The new building and “Your Brain” exhibit are the final part of a comprehensive strategic plan, which also included the restoration of the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial in 2008 and the opening of the Changing Earth and Electricity exhibits in 2010.

The addition is named after Nicholas and Athena Karabots, whose $10 million donation is the largest that the museum has ever received.

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