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The design of a great car is something to be celebrated and where better to showcase this history than in this beautifully designed museum. The LeMay Museum in Tacoma, Washington by LARGE Architects is a 165,000 square foot facility dedicated to exhibiting some of the best and unique cars of all time. The museum has enough space to house up to 350 cars, trucks, and motorcycles all donated from private owners and corporations, but what you will also find here is the expansive Harold LeMay collection, for which the museum was named after, that ranges from a 1906 Cadillac Model M to a 1965 Lotus racecar to a 1983 DeLorean DMC 12. Not only does it display some awe-inspiring vehicles, but the museum also serves as a gathering place for car enthusiasts, with meeting spaces, a membership club, a show field and a planned educational center.

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Courtesy of  LARGE Architecture

The dominating architectural element that is present in this design is most obviously the curved, metal-topped roof system. Engineered by Western Wood Structures, the curved roof system was created with 19 glulam frames with glulam purlins spaced 4 feet on center as secondary framing. The glulam beams, crafted by American Laminators, measure 8-¾ inches by 52-½ inches and arc 104 feet over the displays below. Each of the 757 roof purlins is unique as they all have a different skew and slope as the roof curves in two directions. Thin pieces of sanded plywood sheathing cover the roof in order to bend around the 17-foot radius of curvature. Waterproof rigid insulation and a metal roof complete the structure forming one of the largest wood moment frames in the world.

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Courtesy of  LARGE Architecture

For safety the roof system has a 1-hour fire resistive rating and follows a list of special requirements for seismic design specifically for the framing and construction methods used. The provisions are intended to produce ductility in the arch systems by allowing the steel connections to yield plastically during a seismic event and prevent glulam members from failing in a brittle fashion. It’s also important to note that the use of glulam beams was not only an aesthetic decision but a budget conscious decision as well, making the cost of the museum about $104 psf as opposed to typical museums that range from $400 to $800 psf.

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Courtesy of  LARGE Architecture

At the south end of the structure, the roof system cantilevers over the last glulam arch, supporting the covered fascia and creating a covered outdoor gathering space. The long exhibit floor resembles a warehouse, though it retains its appeal and warmth through the wooden structural ceiling and the thoughtful display details. The floor is a dark stained concrete, in order to resemble the roadways automakers consider when designing a car’s shell for optimal visual effect. The lighting, to prevent bright spots and glare, are hanging fixtures that disperse 40% of the light up and 60% down with a glowing fuse across the front to create a strong, bright even light that sets the space aglow.

Courtesy of  LARGE Architecture

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