United States Institute for Peace

Location: Washington, DC
Client: Clark Construction
Architect: Moshe Safdie

Manganaro Midatlantic, LLC was awarded the contract for the drywall, acoustical ceilings and plaster work for United States Institute for Peace. USIP is an independent, non-partisan organization created and funded by Congress to prevent and resolve violent conflicts.

The building consists of a 150,000 square foot structure located on one of the few remaining sites that face our National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. Iconic in its architecture, the building features a soaring atrium topped by gracefully curving skylights that resemble the wings of a dove. Our scope of work included cold-formed framing for walls, interior drywall partitions, ceilings and bulkheads, acoustical, wood and metal ceilings, and curved acoustical plaster ceilings.

The project was challenging for many reasons. Not the least of these is the fact that there are almost no straight walls or corners anywhere in the building. The corridors between the office spaces are all built on radiuses, which complicated the layout and framing. In order to achieve the daylighting goals of this LEED Silver project, each office space has large clerestory glass at the top of the partitions. This required that even the interior partitions be designed as structural, bearing walls to support the weight of the glass above. Since the glass topped each wall, none are anchored to the slab above, and had to be self-supporting.

The attention to detail on the part of the owner, architect and contractors was extraordinarily high. Due to the large areas of glass at the exterior, wall finishes were required to be exceptional. Complicating the finish quality issue was the fact that lighting the building at night resulted in a completely different direction for the light source, and required additional finishing steps to insure a quality appearance under both sets of conditions.

In several instances, application of finish materials was performed far in excess of specification and manufacturer requirements to meet the high expectations of quality. For example, several additional coats of acoustical plaster were applied in the theater in order to insure that, under uplit conditions, the finish was flawless.

The curving ceiling in the auditorium was another major challenge for Manganaro and its craftspeople.  In order to insure a perfect fit, templates were made on the floor of each of the ceiling “waves” before they were framed and finished above the sloping floor. Finished with acoustical veneer plaster, these also required additional plaster coats above the specification and manufacturer’s recommendations in order to achieve the highest level of finish quality possible.

Plaster ceilings were not the only overhead challenge. Stretched membrane ceilings required precise field measurements before fabrication and installation. Metal panel ceilings also required field measurement to insure a seamless installation. The trapezoid-shaped panels are each unique- no two panels are exactly the same.

Manganaro's work at the USIP was recognized with a 2010 Craftsmanship Award from the Washington Building Congress.