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Orange County Museum of Art

A centerpiece for Orange County's creative arts.

Orange County Museum of Art


Costa Mesa, CA

Nemetschek Group Brands



Steel Framing, Plates, Steel Connections


John A. Martin & Associates, Inc.


Orange County Museum of Art

Technology used


Project Background

The Orange County Museum of Art’s new home is a 53,000 sq ft building featuring exhibition galleries, educational programing, and areas for public gathering. The museum has become another integral piece for the larger campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The Orange County Museum of Art centers around a large multi story glass atrium.The buildings exterior form is sculptural by design in order to create a progression of complex architectural forms to create a flexible gallery space. The building is a concrete and steel structure which the architect intentionally exposes in moments throughout the building.

"When you are in RISA-3D, you get to look at individual elements more closely." - PARBI BOODAGHIAN, SE

About the Structure

The new Orange County Museum of Art’s sculptural and complex shape was an exciting engineering challenge. The structural engineer, JAMA, and the architect, Morphosis, had to work closely and collaboratively in order to model and place the steel framing for the distinctive angles of the building’s shape. This required several iterations of the design therefore JAMA had to remain flexible to make quick structural design changes. Each of the design iterations required JAMA to re-scrutinize the structure to ensure redundancy and stability because the geometry made for not easily discernible load paths. Structurally, the building is three connected pieces. One, the classroom space which is a flexible steel framed structure. Two, the main gallery space which is the more rigid concrete structure. Finally, the glass atrium space with three bridges spanning across. The two dissimilar lateral systems meant that the two areas’ lateral movement behaved distinctly from each other while still needing the connectivity across the glass atrium. Because the atrium’s transparency was so architecturally significant, JAMA also couldn’t place any seismic joints through the atrium. One of the solutions was to design steel beams that were part of the glass bridges spanning across the atrium, and beams supporting the glass atrium acting as seismic struts.

How Were RISA Products Utilized?

RISA-3D is one of JAMA’s go to structural design softwares. Utilizing RISA-3D’s quick modeling features, JAMA quickly created several design iterations for the classrooms, the “plantilever”, and the steel trusses. Using RISA-3D’s DXF import option, JAMA created new model iterations quickly from the architect’s Rhino model. Also, the RISA-3D modeling tools such as the spreadsheets, copying, and moving nodes gave them editing power which is not possible in some other software. The “Plantilever”, as JAMA calls it, is a large roof cantilever supporting a portion of the rooftop garden. The “Plantilever” is located at the north east corner of the museum entrance, above the window gallery. The north entrance of the museum features a series sloping columns which die into the 5ft deep plate girders at the east end. The girders compose the cantilever. Using RISASection, JAMA created the built-up section for the plate girders. Then was able to import the custom sections and their section properties into their RISA-3D models. Then RISA-3D was used to analyze the 32-ft long cantilever.