Johns Hopkins and Clark’s Transformation of the Newseum

  • Editorial Team
  • News
  • 30 November 2023

Johns Hopkins University, led by design and construction director Paul Nassetta were in collaboration with Clark Construction to convert the iconic Newseum in Washington, D.C. into the state of the art JHU Bloomberg Center for higher education. They were able to do so after overcoming lots of challenges such as a tight schedule, some pandemic related disruptions, and a lack of consistency in the building’s structure. After four years of really hard work the 300 million dollar project now stands as a proof of the teams dedication to the work and the innovative construction approaches.

Project Overview

The JHU Bloomberg Center spans 350,000 square feet (that’s a lot) across ten stories on the Pennsylvania Avenue. The center has a 375 seat theater, conference spaces, a banquet hall, fitness center, rooftop terrace, library, multimedia study areas, and informal study spaces. The project set out for completion by the autumn of 2023 semester. This meant that it needed a lot of careful planning and a very very strategic execution.

How the Project Dealt With the Pandemic Related Challenges?

The project faced a lot of challenges out of no where due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The virus was causing disruptions in the supply chain and surges in used equipment and material costs. But still despite these issues the project team along with Johns Hopkins and the design team, implemented a phased design sequence that actually made construction and demolition possible a year before finalizing the overall designs.

What Were The Strategic Construction Approaches?

Workers had to remove damaged material and bring in temporary supporting steel for the higher stories while they demolished sections beneath the eighth level in preparation for replacements. Still, the building’s roof had to stay in place because of how intricately designed it was. That of course meant that this project would have to be built without the use of a crane that would supply materials from overhead, unlike nearly every other complex construction project in the nation. Instead, in order to carry supplies in and out and create room for work, workers had to take down the glass facade that faced busy Pennsylvania Avenue.

So in order to counteract the complexities of the Newseum’s original design, the team had to in fact tear out the floors below the eighth level. This ended up introducing a million pounds of temporary steel for stabilization. As a result what happened is that this strategic approach made it so the construction work was able to continue without the typical use of overhead cranes. The intricate design of the building’s roof also required that workers need to remove the glass facade along Pennsylvania Avenue for material access.

Since there was a need for an expanded elevator bank the team constructed a concrete tube around the current elevators using shotcrete and reinforced steel. This innovative method allowed the construction of a new elevator chamber without relying on overhead cranes as well.

Adapting Spaces for Higher Education

There were lots of changes made to the former Newseum theater that is now a performing arts venue. These changes also included the use of hydraulic jacks to raise the structure for post tension beam repairs. The lack of consistency in the project’s layout posed a bit of a different challenge. Since it is so inconsistent, it requires adaptability from the workers involved in the project.