Mills + Schnoering Architects Receives AIA-NJ Merit Award for Historic Preservation of Statue of Liberty

Princeton, N.J.-Based Firm Uses Contemporary Technologies to Upgrade Visitor Safety and Comfort at American Landmark

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The New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has awarded Princeton, N.J.-based design firm Mills + Schnoering Architects LLC with a Merit Award in the Historic Preservation category for its use of contemporary technologies to upgrade visitor safety and comfort at the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York, N.Y.

“The ingenuity that Mills + Schnoering demonstrated in its preservation of the Statue of Liberty is the exact type of work that AIA-NJ looks to recognize with its annual design awards,” said Kurt Kalafsky, AIA, president of AIA-NJ. “The entire New Jersey architectural community should be proud to know that one of our own served as steward to an essential piece of American history.”

The National Park Service retained a multi-disciplinary design team led by Mills + Schnoering to perform the upgrades to the monument. Severely limited space within the statue’s pedestal posed challenges for the firm, which designed new staircases and a new elevator to deliver visitors to the observation deck and the crown safely and more comfortably.

Mills + Schnoering used Revit, a three-dimensional modeling software, to create a virtual model of the entire monument from laser scans. The interior of the pedestal — 17 square feet at its narrowest and only 27 square feet at its widest — contains massive beams supporting the statue, which further constrict the pedestal’s interior space.

Gustave Eiffel, the celebrated engineer of the Eiffel Tower, designed this original support system. Mills + Schnoering configured two new staircases and two elevators within this interior space without touching Eiffel’s steel support beams and enormous iron tie-down straps that hold the statue in place. Additionally, the firm threaded the stairs and elevators through the narrow interior, which has little room for error.

The life and safety enhancements at the monument have increased visitor safety, fire protection and comfort. New stairs and a new elevator make it easier for visitors to ascend to the pedestal’s observation level, which is now wheelchair accessible for the first time. From the top level of the pedestal, visitors can look up and view the double helix stairs leading through the interior of the Statue to the crown. A new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system creates a more comfortable environment as visitors ascend or descend the stairs.

“Mills + Schnoering Architects was honored to work over the last four years to design safety, accessibility, and other visitor amenities to this icon of freedom and World Heritage Site,” stated Michael Mills, FAIA, partner at Mills + Schnoering Architects. “We are especially honored to be recognized by our peer architects from AIA-New Jersey during a year when so many excellent projects were submitted.”

The AIA-NJ Annual Design Awards program recognizes architectural projects that exhibit design excellence in one of four categories: Open (meant for any building type), Residential, Historic Preservation and Interior Architecture. Projects are further designated as either Built or Un-built. To be eligible, projects must be either located in New Jersey or designed by an AIA-NJ architect. Submitted projects are evaluated during the organization’s annual Design Conference by a group of distinguished architects from throughout the country.

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