Principal Thoughts

Liberty Science Center

A 70-foot high tornado that simulated the power of gale-force winds; a 100-foot-long, pitch-black tunnel that tested sensory skills; and a “zoo” that showcased tarantulas, African scorpions, and other exotic insects were just a few of the many innovative exhibits—along with movies projected on an 88-foot-diameter hemispherical screen—that intrigued and educated visitors when the doors to the Liberty Science Center opened to the public in January 1993. In May 1988—29 years ago next month—Severud Associates was retained to design the structure for this dramatic 170,000 sq. ft. science center in Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

The vertical lines of the Observation Tower and the angular shapes of the main building juxtaposed with the curves of the massive IMAX Dome Theater make Liberty Science Center’s visual aesthetic more striking and its structural design more complex. Severud Associates met the engineering challenges posed by the architectural design by using a carefully chosen variety of structural systems, the most appropriate and economical materials, and analysis and design software considered advanced at that time. The resulting structure provides a mostly unseen showcase of engineering technology worthy of its own exhibit.

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United States Tax Court

Most people would agree that the U.S. Tax Court in Washington D.C. is a place they would rather avoid, unless of course they are just going to admire the inventive design of this beautiful Modernist-style building.  In 1965, acclaimed architect Victor Lundy was asked by the General Services Administration (GSA) to design the U.S. Tax Court building using a new set of design principles for federal architecture. That same year—51 years ago this month—Severud Associates was retained to provide structural engineering services to execute Lundy’s vision for a truly contemporary government building.

Resembling an elongated stack of blocks, the granite and glass building features office wings at its left, right, and rear sides from which a windowless two-story cantilever projects towards the front.  The cantilever, which houses the courtrooms, hovers dramatically over a grand staircase leading to the main entrance.  An expansive two-story podium rests below all of the building’s blocks and ties them together.

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35XV Condominium

A Jesuit high school and a luxury residential building might at first seem like odd bedfellows, until you see the ingenious mixed-use development known as 35XV at 35 West 15th Street in New York City.  A clever deal enabled Alchemy Properties to acquire air rights from Xavier High by agreeing to place the proposed 18-story residential building on top of a new annex for the school. In April 2010—seven years ago this spring—Severud Associates was retained to provide structural engineering services for this unique project, which involved an array of design challenges and, ultimately, numerous inventive solutions.

Featuring sloped columns, cantilevers, and a glass façade, the tower—complete with 55 luxury condos, a fitness center, lounge, and dining room—sits on top of the school’s six-story, granite-clad annex and adds eye-catching architecture to a tree-lined block in Chelsea.  35XV’s daring architectural design required equally bold engineering, so the team at Severud Associates applied their years of experience and ingenuity to developing structural systems that maintained the architect’s aesthetic vision and also allowed the building to utilize all of its available airspace.

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Ed Messina

Sixty years ago today, on October 4, 1956, Ed Messina joined Severud-Elstad-Krueger, Consulting Engineers, now Severud Associates.  A steward of the firm for most of that time, he was named chairman of the board in 2006.

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Pavilions for the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair

Long before Google became a verb, the word Googie was used as an adjective to describe modernist architecture that was influenced by the mid-20th century’s car culture and golden era of jet travel along with the burgeoning Space and Atomic Ages. The New York World’s Fair that opened in 1964 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, became a showcase for the Googie style with many eye-catching pavilions that incorporated design elements such as massive cantilevers, upswept roofs, and shapes resembling spacecraft. Fifty-four years ago, in July of 1962, Severud Associates was retained to provide structural engineering services for the Johnson’s Wax Pavilion, a building which reflected the very essence of the Googie style.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

Known throughout the world for the collections of artwork it houses, the Met is also impressive for its architecture, which has interested people since the museum opened in its Central Park location in 1880. The story begins in 1869 when publisher George Putnam suggested that New York City needed a museum of art. Leaders from prestigious cultural and educational institutions agreed and formed an executive committee to prepare a charter. Several months later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated. (more…)

Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters Building

Memorable slogans such as “More Bounce to the Ounce,” “Gotta Have It,” and “Change the Game” have made Pepsi-Cola, the drink created by Caleb Davis Bradham in North Carolina in 1893, a household name and a popular brand on restaurant menus and store shelves around the country. A surge in sales in the 1950s prompted company executives to commission a new building and in the winter of 1956—nearly 60 years ago—the engineers at Severud Associates decided to “Catch that Pepsi Spirit” and collaborate with architects from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on the design for the Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

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The Jefferson Memorial – Gateway Arch

Seeming to pierce the brilliant blue sky on a sunny day, the magnificent 630-foot-high St. Louis Gateway Arch pays tribute to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, homage to President Thomas Jefferson, and respect to engineering innovation at its best. The story of the arch begins in the early 1930’s when the mayor of St. Louis and a group of community leaders proposed a riverfront memorial to commemorate the city’s role in the westward expansion of the United States. However, it wasn’t until 50 years ago today—October 28, 1965—that the keystone was set to complete the memorial. (more…)

The Campus of Cornell University

Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, offers a rigorous education to myriad students from around the world. In the words of Ezra Cornell, the university was founded as a place where “any person can find instruction in any study.” Starting with just one building in 1868, the main campus where most of this instruction occurs now comprises 628 buildings spread over 2000 acres.

Severud Associates has designed many buildings at Cornell, starting in 1943 when the firm was retained to collaborate with architect Frederick L. Ackerman (a Cornell alum) on a Men’s Sports Building. Since then, Severud Associates has provided structural engineering services for several iconic campus facilities, including the Kennedy Hall and Roberts Hall complex for the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Commissioned in 1984—31 years ago this month—the dramatic building consists of two separate three-story office wings connected by a common fourth floor, which houses the Department of Landscape Architecture. (more…)

JFK Center for the Performing Arts

What does Severud Associates have in common with Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Agnes de Mille, and Aaron Copland? All have a place in the history of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the idea of a prominent venue for the arts and in 1958 he signed legislation creating a National Cultural Center. President John F. Kennedy continued to promote the project and led efforts to fund it. In March 1963, Severud Associates was retained to work with renowned architect Edward Durell Stone to design the Center. Congress designated it a “living memorial” to President Kennedy soon after he was assassinated. (more…)