Project Management Institute

A general contractor's perspective

October 1991


Marty Marra
Project Manager for Mellon Stuart



The Carnegie Science Center was a very unique and diverse structure to build from the view of the general contractor. The building sits atop 45-foot-deep friction-type augercast piles drilled into the dense sand layers alongside the Allegheny River.

Three independent cast-in-place concrete stairtowers were then built to brace the structural precast columns, beams and floor plank which immediately followed. A precast framing system was designed for the middle third of the structure to accommodate possible heavy floor loads for future exhibit spaces for the Science Center.

The eastern and western portions of the building were designed of structural steel. Due to the varied types of structural members, along with non-typical sizes and uses of each floor, the erection of the structure required careful planning. The eastern third of the building houses the Ranges OMNIMAX® Theater. A hemispherical dome of delicate perforated aluminum makes up the viewing screen, which almost completely wraps around the audience. This dome is tilted on a 30 degree angle and sits on top of a sloping, elliptical concrete wall.






The design requirements of the sound engineers (acousticians) for this theater were incredible. The acousticians needed to create an atmosphere void of all external noises and sound. The location of the building and its close proximity to Three Rivers Stadium, railroad lines and reads had to be taken into consideration.

Thus, the perimeter walls were built almost 7 feet thick with 14 alternating layers of soundbatts, plaster, steel, drywall and styrofoam. The roof had 7 inches of concrete that was cast-in-place on a 45 degree slope.

The western portion of the building includes the new Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium, an auditorium and gallery ramps to access all exhibit floors. The planetarium is constructed similar to the OMNINMAX® Theater, but instead of the view dome bearing on a supporting wall, it is suspended from the roof structure.

The construction team was made up of a large variety of people, including the owners, architects, contractors, high-tech specialty companies and exhibit design specialists. The successful synchronization of all parties has resulted in a project that is exceptionally unique, individually rewarding and will be an outstanding showplace for many years to come.


Marty M. Marra, 36, is the project manager for Mellon Stuart Company and the general contractor for the Carnegie Science Center. Marty has a civil engineering degree fron Bucknell University and has been with Mellon Stuart for six years.

Since graduating from college, Marty has worked on multi-family residential housing, a high-rise office building, parking garages, and a large regional shopping mall. Another project managed by Marty was the $37 million new chemistry building for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.



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