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Albany’s Egg Gets Modernized Freight Lift

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The Egg, a performing arts center in the New York state capital, was designed to look like a piece of public sculpture.

Otis and Peelle Team up to Fit Rectangular Unit Into Round Space

After 12 years of construction, The Egg Center for Performing Arts in the Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York, opened to the public in 1978. The Egg, named for its unusual, rounded architecture, offers a stunning exterior that has been likened to a piece of sculpture, and an interior design meant to enhance the performances and events that take place.

The Egg houses two performance halls: the 450-seat Lewis A. Swyer Theatre, which plays host to chamber music concerts, cabaret, multimedia presentations and other small-venue events; and the Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre, home to larger productions including musical theater, dance and music concerts. A lounge adjacent to the Hart Theatre provides space for other types of events, such as seminars, receptions and after-theater parties.

The exterior motif is repeated on the interior, as there are virtually no straight lines or corners inside the building. This design feature extended all the way to the original freight elevator, which presented a challenge when it came time for a modernization. Essentially, it became a matter of “putting a square peg in a round hole.”

Building managers determined that, after nearly 40 years of operation, it was time to modernize the freight elevator. As with any mechanical equipment, The Egg’s hydraulic unit was seeing an increase in service issues, with sourcing repair parts becoming a greater challenge. Otis, which built the original lift, was contracted to do the job based on specifications worked out by the Peelle Co. in conjunction with consultant Architectural Resources.

The modernized freight elevator has a 28-ft.-tall cab with front and rear doors. It has three stops (two front and one rear) across a total 104 ft. of travel. The platform turns into a stage at theater level. The hydraulic system uses 1,900 gallons of oil.

Work began in July 2017. The Otis team started by removing all of the outdated equipment: controllers, hydraulic valves, pumps, motors, piping, hall and car signal fixtures, cab, platform, car gates, front entrances and all related shaft and machine-room wiring. Otis also had to remove unused conduit, electrical boxes, clips, fasteners and miscellaneous equipment no longer required.

Peelle built the cab and doors. The original plan was to power operate the existing curved Otis freight doors (which matched The Egg’s rounded design), but Peelle discovered there was no solution to modernize the doors, as these would prove too complicated to build or receive a UL label. The answer was to provide new Peelle vertical slide freight elevator doors, car enclosure and frames. This plan required significant hoistway construction, a new platform and new, flat walls to eliminate the curve.

Peelle provided three 19-X-12-ft. single-panel slide-up doors; two 19-X-22-ft. two-panel slide-up hoistway and car doors; the car enclosure; entrance frames to support the Peelle material; and Peelle operators, components and control system. The doors were installed by Otis with Peelle supervision.

Challenges

The Egg was occupied and operational during the modernization. Because the elevator becomes part of the stage in the Swyer Theater, construction needed to be planned around the event schedule, with extensive coordination among all parties. To accommodate these requirements and ensure the project stayed on track, Otis Project Manager Oluwamayowa Asehinde established “quiet days” as far in advance as possible. The Egg is one of the busiest event spaces in the city, and the freight elevator is the only access to move large and heavy event equipment around the floor levels. The modernization will help improve accessibility and wait times. In addition, the solution will provide more floor space in the machine room; smoother acceleration, deceleration and ride quality; and greater reliability and safety.

An interesting personal note: the Otis foreman on the project, Dave Millious, is the son of Floyd Millious, who was the Otis foreman on the original project in the late 1970s. According to Dave, he and his dad talk once a week about the project.

“He always asks how the work is going,” Dave said. “He helps me solve any issues that come up, telling me about some of the ways he made the job work back in the day. The Egg is a structure that you don’t see every day, and such a unique building requires unique ways of looking at things.”

The modernization work was targeted for completion in late February.

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