Fall is finally here and with it, the Markel Center enters an exciting new phase of construction.

Over the past few weeks, the building was dramatically transformed with the removal of scaffolding and reveal of the torqued exterior walls above the auditorium. Concrete work for the lower level, first-floor gallery, cafe, and shop have all been completed; remaining are the third-floor gallery and upper canopy of the forum. Also completed, placement of the steel beams for these remaining structures. Perhaps the most striking construction component to date, the steel super-structure revealed a hint of the Markel Center’s future visual impact at the intersection of Broad and Belvidere.

This structural skeleton comprises approximately eighty-five individual pieces of steel that were lifted into position by a crane and set by hand. With only fractions of an inch of tolerance, workers carefully maneuvered the several-ton pieces into final position to be hammered, bolted, and welded into place. Much of this work was done while suspended almost 75 feet in the air. Once all of the steel was in place, workers began coating the beams with a white, intumescent (fire-retardant) paint as per standard safety requirements.

Meanwhile, the construction crew continues working on the exterior walls as they install an air and vapor barrier. The barrier consists of layered membranes that are applied to the concrete shell. The membranes protect the interior from moisture penetration, creating an integrated building envelope. Workers first apply a thin layer of aluminum to the concrete, directly followed by a poly-based waterproofing membrane. Next, they install light-weight steel studs to the exterior, creating an insulating cavity between the membrane and outer wall. Lastly, another thin layer of aluminum is attached to the studs, later followed by the final zinc paneling.

With the steel frame nearing completion, crews have begun installing the glass panels that form the remainder of the outer walls for the first, second, and third floors. Starting with the first floor, the team plans to work in a counter-clockwise motion around the building, covering the glass with a protective barrier to ensure a spectacular reveal for the opening in 2017. Enclosing the building will allow workers to move forward on interior projects such as installing radiant tubing and electrical work without conflict from weather conditions.

Construction still has quite a way to go but, with these new developments, the Markel Center is closer to realizing Steven Holl Architects’ original vision.


1) The Markel Center juxtaposed with Steven Holl Architects’ rendering of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, Oct 2016. ©Steven Holl Architects and ICA at VCU

2) Exterior view of the auditorium as seen from Belvidere Street, Sep 2016. Courtesy of Ada Gallery

3) Construction team hand-finishing the interior of a torqued concrete wall, Oct 2016

4) The structural steel frame as seen from the corner of Broad and Belivdere, Oct 2016

5) Workers setting steel beams, Oct 2016

6) Workers welding steel beams into place, Oct 2016

7) Worker coating steel beams with intumescent paint, Oct 2016

8) The partially-installed air and vapor barrier on building exterior, Oct 2016

9) Close-up view of the air and vapor barrier,Oct 2016

10) View of glass panels being installed, Oct 2016