The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, is as unique as the industry it represents. One part of the brand-new museum—the sphere—has a glass rooftop dome that required the superior structural capacity found in Saflex Structural (DG41) PVB interlayers instead of standard PVB interlayers.

Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa, Italy, the Academy Museum is housed in the historic May Company Building (now called the Saban Building) in Los Angeles. Glass bridges lead to the glass dome. The lower half of the sphere is the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater. The all-glass top half of the sphere features a rooftop terrace under the stars.

The dome design required careful attention to material selection and design detail that lasted several years. Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering designed a unique “shingle” system to accommodate the complex geometry and high load requirements.

The glass dome consists of a single-layered, braced steel structure covered in shingled glass panels—two panes per grid. They were manufactured with Saflex Structural (DG41) PVB interlayers and installed by Permasteelisa North America. While the inner glass pane is supported by an invisible, custom dead-load pin connection, the outer glass pane is supported by the interlayer—making a stiff interlayer essential. Due to Saflex Structural’s strength and rigidity, the engineers found that it met both requirements.

The glass edges are exposed to varying weather conditions. Saflex Structural helps protect against delamination, preserving the dome’s beautiful appearance. It was combined with other Saflex PVB interlayers to avoid any negative visual impact. This also contributes to the dome’s clarity. Low-iron glass without a coating created the final effect.

Because Los Angeles is earthquake prone, the dome’s superstructure is supported by base isolators, which allow the structure to move by up to one meter during the swaying and racking in a seismic event.