Walker Art Center Cafe and Entrance

The Walker Art Center Vineland Place Entrance and Café.

Design assist for pre-construction engineering and constructability

Empirehouse teamed with HGA Architects, Joan Sorrano and John Cook, and Mortenson Construction as the Architectural Glass and Metal Contractor for the new Walker Art Center Vineland Place Entrance and Café. Empirehouse provided pre-construction engineering and system design assist for constructability, as well as, a glass and glazing scope including: a custom frameless glass facade with over-sized insulated glass units; balanced glass entrance doors; huge skylights; interior glass railings and glass walls; and exterior glass hand railings on the top level.

“Our innovative system design-assist solutions bring HGA’s design ideas to life.” —Pat Lawrence, Empirehouse Director of Sales and Marketing

In December 2014, Empirehouse connected with HGA Architects & Engineers to review a conceptual design by well-known architect Joan Sorrano. This time it was for the Walker Art Center Vineland Place Entrance and Café project.

After our successful glass and glazing workmanship with HGA on premiere projects as the Lakewood Garden Mausoleum and American Swedish Institute: Nelson Cultural Center, Empirehouse has gained credibility as an innovative solution provider for Architectural Glass and Metal systems while maintaining design intent. Patrick Lawrence, Empirehouse Director of Sales and Marketing said, “Our innovative system solutions bring HGA’s design ideas to life.”

Walker Art Cafe Specialty Glass Railings, Entrances, Curtainwall

Functional and aesthetically pleasing

Previous experience with many of the design elements for the Walker Art Center proved vital to the successful delivery of this project. Utilization of exotic materials like bronze alloy cladding components require additional quality control measures and specific integrated work plans. For the unsupported glass facades using over-sized insulated glass units, Empirehouse performed pre-construction engineering and constructability studies to make recommendations for product selection.

“Our goal with HGA was to produce functional architectural glass and metal systems while maintaining design intent,” said Lawrence.

Functional and cost effective

After months of design review, Empirehouse worked through budget considerations with Mortenson Construction and ultimately was contracted to perform the scope of work. “With Mortenson, our goal was to provide the designed architectural glass and metal systems within budget without compromising the aesthetic,” said Lawrence.

The Walker Art Center project transformed an unassuming entrance into an inviting and light-filled space. The Empirehouse architectural glass and glazing is showcased throughout the new addition: Custom frameless glass facade with over-sized insulated glass units, balanced glass entrance doors, channel set heavy interior glass wall, over-sized heavy-tempered skylights, glowing laminated glass entrance wall, interior glass railings, and exterior glass railings above the café and entrance.

“The Walker Art Center project is a huge success,” said Lawrence. “We were able to transform the architect’s design ideas into something tangible.”

The November 25, 2016 StarTribune features an article about the recently completed Walker Art Center Vineland Place Entrance and Café.

“Entering from the parking garage, visitors now see a glowing wall, with the Walker logo appearing to float in front of it. A blue wall on one side of a stair from the garage and large sliding glass doors on the other side funnel visitors into a light-filled passageway…a light-filled restaurant…look up and you see the ceilings angle toward some strategically placed skylights. Look across the new lounge area and out an expansive wall of glass to Vineland Place.”

(Streetscapes: Why the new entrance at the Walker Art Center matters by Thomas Fisher, Special to the Star Tribune). StarTribune story»

In addition to the Walker Art Center expansion project, Empirehouse has worked with HGA Architects John Cook and Joan Soranno on several other iconic projects including Lakewood Garden Mausoleum, American Swedish Institute: Nelson Cultural CenterTemple Israel, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Center.

This Walker Art video features shots of the new entrance and cafe and a conversation hosted by Architecture MN magazine with Joan Soranno and John Cook of HGA Architects and Engineers, Thomas Fisher of the Minnesota Design Center, and Walker executive director Olga Viso on the ideas and considerations that drove the Walker’s new light-filled main entrance design to dramatically enhance visitor circulation and strengthen the Walker’s connection to the neighboring Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Impressive teamwork, precision, and communication in action

Installing 1,100 Glass Lites at Walker Art CenterFor the Walker Art Café, the custom frameless glass facade was set from the inside using the Empirehouse state-of-the-art Ergo Robotics Glass Manipulator (Egor). While Empirehouse Foreman Mark Waggoner operated Egor, Lead Glazier Mitch Schindele and Glazier Billy Esnough were his eyes as they directed him at the controls to perfectly fit each 72″ x 122″ 1,100 lb. glass lite into the narrow channel without a scrape or chip.

“Egor was the only way to install 1,100 lb. glass units of this size in this small enclosed space,” said Empirehouse Field Supervisor Trent Johnson.

Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)

Walker Art Center Specialty Glass

Underground parking entrance greets visitors with a glowing laminated glass wall.

Zero wiggle room

Setting Glass with EgorThe huge laminated glass lites were installed using the Empirehouse state-of-the-art Ergo Robotics Glass Manipulator (Egor) which was operated by Foreman Mark Waggoner with the careful direction of Glaziers Troy Cagle, Bill Hueman, Bill Esnough, and Howard Wesley. It was a challenging install because the ceiling had already been finished. There was zero wiggle room to clear the ceiling and set each glass lite into the narrow channel.

The Glazing Team and Egor completed this installation safely and without a scrape, nick or scratch to the glass or ceiling.


Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)

Walker Art Center Skylight

Skylights, channel set heavy interior glass wall, and interior glass hand railings.

Craning in glass liteSetting 1,600 lb. insulated glass skylights

Weighing as much as 1,600 pounds, four insulated glass skylights were craned to the upper level above the Café with the power cup for installation.

Empirehouse Foreman Mark Waggoner with Glaziers Dan Weiss, Gary Salmala, Eddy Love, and Apprentice Joel Thorson installed each all-glass low-slope skylight into 244 square feet of custom aluminum purlin.



Owner: Walker Art Center
Contractor: Mortenson Construction
Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers
Architectural Glass and Metal Contractor: Empirehouse, Inc.
Completed: October 2016

Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)

Let the Empirehouse design-assist and constructability experts identify and solve your architectural glass and metal system issues before your next construction project begins. Call Empirehouse at (763) 535-1150 or contact us.