Porcelanosa won this year’s Excellence in Structural Engineering award from the Structural Engineers Association of New York in the category of Forensic Analysis / Renovation / Retrofit / Rehabilitation of Structures.

To create an iconic new flagship showroom for tile, kitchen, bathroom and hardwood company Porcelanosa, Foster + Partners, working with structural engineers from Gilsanz Murray Steficek, created an entirely new structure within the historic Commodore Criterion building. The result is a dramatic, light-filled, six-level showroom that includes a design library with more than 1,000 references of tiles, mosaics, stones, and hardwoods in a dramatic, top-level space.

“The main design challenge has been to work within the protected shell to transform the interior. The design will create new visual connections vertically through the building and will introduce a greater variety of spaces, with a series of dramatic interlocking levels,” explains architect Norman Foster. “The design will restore historic aspects of the exterior and create a new interior experience of large–volume showroom spaces ­– all within the context of a sustainable agenda.” The building seeks a LEED Gold rating.

Whereas office buildings typically assume live loads of 50 psf, Porcelanosa is designed for live loads of 125 psf. This is due not only to the heavy products that are displayed, but also due to the equipment (such as forklifts) used to transport products within the building and the concentrated weights of deliveries. Flat-jack tests showed that the existing exterior masonry were not strong enough.

The initial approach was to connect the new steel beams to new steel columns abutting the perimeter masonry. But this created protrusions into and reduced the interior space. Therefore, shotcrete was used to create sheer walls at the perimeter. These new wall segments not only support the gravity loads from the steel floor beams, but also reinforce the masonry and resist the lateral loads. Shotcrete is not a commonly used building construction technique in New York City. It is primarily employed in infrastructure and tunnel construction.