Problems for Piano’s Modern Wing

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by . Photo by Nic Leoux.

A $10 million lawsuit has been filed against for flaws in Renzo Piano’s addition to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing (check out our previous coverage of the museum). The museum claims that certain documents made by Arup were flawed and have resulted in serious problems for the museum. Although most of the problems were addressed before the 264,000 sqf wing opened in 2009, the Institute still states that errors have led to condensation in the vestibule and incorrectly sized temperature and humidity controls. Determined to maintain their highly esteemed reputation as a world-class museum, the Art Institute has clarified that although the building has experienced problems, no artwork was ever in jeopardy of being harmed.

More about the lawsuit after the break.

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago by Renzo Piano. Photo by Nic Leoux

Further problems include cracking sub-floors which delayed the installation of the finished wood floors for the galleries, and air-handling systems that were not capable of delivering air at the standard necessary for displaying art. And, Piano’s most distinctive feature – the “flying carpet” roof – has been modified as, according to the museum, faulty engineering forced the museum to seal openings in some of the blades so the roof would not produce a whistle sound.

The issue brings to light a difficult issue of where the blame lies, especially in a building of this size. Perhaps Arup has fallen short, or perhaps the blame lies with the construction, or maybe even in the design. It is difficult to say, yet interestingly enough, the lawsuit is only directed at Arup.   No matter who is to blame, hopefully the problems are resolved quickly and accurately so all can enjoy this new museum.

Sources: The Architect’s Newspaper and The Chicago Tribune

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Problems for Piano’s Modern Wing" 01 Oct 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • sullka

    The A/C issue is either a bad MEP project, or wasn’t built according to specifications (supervision issue)

    Sub-floors cracking, I’m going to guess the architect of the record on a Renzo Piano project must be really detailed in meeting construction codes and doing the proper specifications. So it probably was a construction issue, lack of supervision, etc.

    Unlike SANAA’s New Museum in NY, where the polished floors are filled with cracks, I guess sloppy detailing, they didn’t put control joints (for looks?) and all you see cracks and patches all over ther floor.

    And as far as the “whistle” issue wit the louvers and pergolas, that’s a pretty “strange” issue. Unless the whistle is extremelly loud or produces vibrations, sounds like a non-issue to me.

    I didn’t hear anything when I was there. Excellent restaurant on the top floor btw.

    • Jesse Lockhart-Krause

      Very informative. Thanks.

  • Philip

    Without knowing all of the details I think this is more a case of the litigation culture of the US. Of course we all expect 100% functional buildings but we have been spoiled by the likes of the car industry in expecting a perfect consumer object. Well a production car goes through millions of dollars of testing and prototyping before production, whereas every building is in effect a prototype. I think it will be a sad day when architects and engineers pull in their horns for fear of being sued.