Elevating Cultural Influence

Len Lye Centre Holmes

Cultural spaces have the power to impact the fabric of our communities. They influence civic discourse, accelerate change, and contribute to contextual intelligence. Holmes is keen to elevate these spaces and empower their potential for positive impact. To do so, we’re equipped with resources and tools from all sides of Holmes Group. From structural and fire engineering to product testing, we creatively align our strengths and realize safe, immersive visitor experiences.

Connect with our cultural leads, Greg Briggs and Alyson Blair.

Contact Greg & Alyson

Cayton Children's Museum Net Climber Holmes
Cayton Children's Museum Net Climber - Santa Monica

True Collaborators

The structures that house cultural centers are more than just vessels for exhibits. Institutions often encourage structural works of art that support and enhance the exhibits they hold. A deeper understanding of our clients’ goals and motives allows us to be true collaborators at the table. We develop integrated designs that toe the boundaries between function, beauty, and efficiency.

The massing of these facilities are often iconic and unconventional. Supporting priceless artworks requires creativity and technical know-how to deliver robust yet architecturally expressive lateral systems. Principal Greg Briggs’ previous experience with SFMOMA is a great example of an explorative approach to structural framing. The project sports a design using structural steel nestled over an existing matt foundation, which was strengthened through a series of full-story-deep concrete stiffening walls and embedded steel columns. The final solution created an “egg-create” effect, which enabled the existing matt foundation to support the massive addition.

Within the same museum, Holmes helped install and expand access to Diego Rivera’s 30-ton Pan-American Unity mural. In order to preserve, transport, and showcase a fresco of this scale and significance, we interfaced with SFMOMA staff, the art handler, and a university research partner. Informed by team dialogue, Holmes led rigorous detailing, non-linear analysis, construction sequencing, and means and methods engineering. Secured by ten panel mounts and a subtle display structure, the mural is now viewable to the general public street-side.

Pan American Unity Mural Installation – Courtesy of SFMOMA

Pilara Foundation Photo Gallery at Pier 24 San Francisco
The Pilara Foundation - San Francisco

From a fire and life safety viewpoint, artworks may need an increased level of protection. Access to egress may be trickier for immersive exhibits. We address these challenges while allowing for future flexibility in use and programming. With an open channel of communication between our fire and structural engineering teams, we operate with utmost expertise in our respective scopes. Holmes realizes holistic design solutions early-on, limiting costs and delivering integrated end solutions.

Presidio Tunnel Tops San Francisco Holmes
Presidio Tunnel Tops

In partnership with the Parks Conservancy and National Parks Service, Holmes tapped into our longstanding relationship with the Presidio of San Francisco to bring the Presidio Tunnel Tops to fruition. Empowered by the goal to create a free and open public space, the design team reconnected the historic main post to Crissy Field. Covering renovations, three new buildings to expand visitor services, extensive landscaping and collaboration with Caltrans, the design team transformed under-utilized land into a vibrant community gathering place.

Designing for Sustainability

Cultural centers and museums have special considerations when discussing a project’s sustainability goals. Unlike for other building programming, many institutions are not able to reduce MEP operations during off hours (due to temperature and humidity requirements for exhibits). While highly efficient MEP systems play a role in sustainable design, they are not the only means. Another avenue can be found through assessing a project’s structural embodied carbon. By looking at embodied carbon, structural engineers can mitigate a project’s overall global warming potential (GWP). With a deep understanding of construction materials⁠—such as mass timber and reduced carbon concrete mixes⁠—structural engineers hold the key to minimizing a project’s overall GWP.



MOTAT Holmes
Museum of Transportation and Technology (MOTAT) - Auckland

Approach to Existing Structures

Existing structures present unique challenges to design teams. Whether a historic façade needs to be reinforced, or occupancy needs to be adjusted, each building requires a tailor-made solution. Holmes’ performance-based engineering approach starts with investigating the building in depth to gain a full understanding of its conditions and  potential. By quantifying the capacity of the existing building’s systems, we can understand its overall qualities—its strengths, deficiencies, and expected performance in multiple structural and fire scenarios. We consider each building with the preference to supplement rather than replace, remove rather than add, and augment only in the amount necessary.

The Exploratorium San Francisco Holmes
The Exploratorium

When The Exploratorium relocated to a historic pier in San Francisco, the design team had to renovate an aging marine structure to support exhibits, a 250-seat theater, and offices. The site constraints of the pier coupled with interactive exhibits sparked unprecedented design challenges. Holmes overcame these constraints by pioneering performance-based fire and life safety solutions, and by providing a structural peer review of the retrofit.

More robust renovations utilize base isolation to maintain a higher degree of safety for occupants and exhibits. Holmes has leveraged this approach on projects including the Te Papa and Canterbury Museums in New Zealand. Base isolation provides the utmost protection for valuable art, artifacts, exhibits, and the structure in general.

Auckland Museum Holmes

More Perspectives

Our structural fire engineers deliver performance objectives and savings with advanced analysis.

Structure Fire Interaction