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October 19, 2021
Virtual construction & technology, Self perform

For the past several years, Pepper has been working as part of a dedicated tri-venture team of contractors, as well as architects and landscape designers, to complete a $142 million renovation and expansion at The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock. Planning began in 2016 and construction started in October 2019, and the museum is expected to reopen in the fall of 2022.

"From the outset, our goal has been to make accessible the very best of art and architecture to Little Rock,” said AMFA Executive Director Victoria Ramirez. “We are realizing the most contemporary ideas about museums and public spaces and creating a new paradigm that is both art- and people-centric.”

Birds eye view

The 133,000-square-foot space blends elements of the original 1937 Art Deco structure, which will serve as an entrance to the museum, with stunning contemporary design. Its signature roof — a flowing, folded-plate concrete structure — blossoms to the north and south. Below the roof is a custom curtainwall system that allows for breathtaking views of MacArthur Park.

While work on the museum is still in progress, the concrete elements have been recognized by the American Concrete Institute (ACI) as the first-place winner of the 2021 Excellence in Concrete Construction Award in the Low-Rise Buildings category. The competition included projects from around the world with first- and second-place awards distributed across seven categories.



Creating a showplace for creativity

Pepper is working as part of a construction tri-venture with Nabholz and Doyne Construction to oversee the project. We self-preformed the concrete roof structure, providing field supervision, a prefabricated framing system, layout and rebar detailing with subcontracted collaborators DNA Detailing & BIM.

Much of the design vision was realized by using concrete and 3D modeling to create a complex slab on grade, sloping exposed columns and the folded-plate concrete roof structure.

Slab on Grade

The polished slab on grade features a deep grind to expose a unique aggregate mix that provides a consistent flooring material throughout the main areas of the museum. 

  • The team called quarries around the country and produced 29 mock-ups to achieve the desired tone and appearance. 
  • Two different mixes are featured in the floor, separated by metal inlays to outline one-foot bands that mimic the roof beams.

Exposed columns

Rising out of the slab on grade, architecturally exposed concrete columns have unique "V" and "Y" shapes visible from inside and outside the structure.

  • The profiles start wide at the base and gradually taper down until they merge with the roof beams. 
  • The concrete mix design was chosen to eliminate honeycombing and bug holes and to ensure crisp, clean corners.
Exposed Columns


Folded-plate roof

The 28,000-square-foot folded-concrete roof structure curves between the existing museum structures and blossoms out into the surrounding green space.

  • 3D modeling was used to generate more than 1,245 wood frames that varied in pitch, width and curve along each section and form the bottom surface of the folded plate.
  • The supporting 1,325 linear feet of beams feature white cement that creates a stunning appearance in the final exposed condition. 

This approach, as well as other processes implemented by our team, allowed more than 10,000 tons of waste to be successfully diverted from landfills and 87.7% of waste, including the trusses, to be reused or recycled. The project is exceeding LEED goals for Building Product Disclosure Optimization credits.

Technology makes the process appear seamless

The continually changing geometry of the roof also created a challenge for rebar design, detail and placement. Again, extensive 3D modeling ensured the proper fabrication and placement of the 258 tons of rebar, which varied in size and spacing.

By partnering with DNA Detailing & BIM, a 3D rebar detailing and modeling company that adapts its services to the newest emerging technologies, we were able to identify and present areas where the intricate folded plate geometry of the roof was unable to be captured in 2D design details. The detailing team could then propose special rebar shapes that would cut down on unanticipated congestion while maintaining the design intent and simplifying the process of placing interlocking layers of reinforcement. This also allowed us to work with rebar that could be fabricated quickly and was straightforward enough to be placed in the field.  To learn more about this project click here.