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Texas Memorial Museum undergoes fire safety renovations

An exterior fire-rated stairwell is being added to the south side of the Texas Memorial Museum and the interior stairwell is being enclosed to bring it up to fire code. This will ensure the safety of occupants and visitors of the museum, while preserving the building's original design.

The Texas Memorial Museum was designed by Philadelphia architect Paul Cret and was built between 1937 and 1939, a time when the need for multiple fire exits was not a consideration in building planning. "They didn't think of fire life safety back then the way we do now," says project manager Daniel Heath, "but we've come up with ways to meet current fire safety codes without compromising the design."

The exterior fire-rated stairwell will be encased in smooth limestone panels to complement the fossilized limestone used in the Cret design; this will preserve the symmetry of the building’s façade while adding secondary exit routes to the third and fourth floors, which are the highest-occupancy floors of the building. In addition, the interior stairwell will be enclosed in a glass wall to meet fire safety codes while still allowing visitors to appreciate the beauty of the original bronze steps.

Cret is a significant architect in the history of The University of Texas at Austin's campus because he designed many of the buildings on the South Mall. Heath notes, "Project Management and Construction Services wanted to make sure that after the renovations people could look at the museum and know it’s a Paul Cret building."

The building will be closed from June 11 to September 29, 2007, to accommodate renovations.