All Saints Episcopal School recently constructed a new student union building that houses an expansive dining area, collaboration lounges, conference rooms, and offices. The new facility is semi-circular in shape and faces the chapel that is the school’s focal point. According to project architect Brady Dietert, the 190-degree, semi-circular configuration led to a number of design challenges, including the ceiling.
Dietert notes the interior of the building features over 9,000 square feet of open pavilion space. The design team initially considered a traditional acoustical lay-in ceiling for the space but decided against it because of all the field cutting that would have been necessary to fit the radial layout. “It would have involved far too much labor and material waste,” he says.
To attain the desired exposed structure visual, the design team chose METALWORKS Blades – Classics in an EFFECTS Cherry finish from Armstrong Ceiling Solutions. Manufactured from extruded aluminum, the vertical panels impart an upscale linear design to a space and are offered in three colors and six wood-look finishes. The panels are 1" thick, 4" high, and available in three lengths that can be joined together to create longer lengths.
Dietert explains the look of wood was important. “The chapel features wood in its ceiling and we wanted the student union to echo that same material quality.” At one point, the design team considered linear wood panels but decided instead on the wood-look metal panels. “The metal panels are much lighter in weight and much more dimensionally stable than real wood,” he says, “while still imparting warmth to the space.”
The wood look on the panel is made possible by a finishing technology that embeds a realistic wood image onto the surface of the metal panel. The technology produces a consistent color tone, reducing the visual variations that can occur in real wood. “The ceiling is high enough that occupants can’t tell that it’s not real wood,” Dietert notes.
To create the signature ceiling, nearly 10,000 linear feet of METALWORKS Blades were installed, including over 1,100 individual panels. The panels are installed in two spans that mirror the roof design. One span is 21 feet in length and slopes down from the chapel-facing window wall. The other is 7 feet in length and slopes down from the opposite wall.
The architect reports reaction to the ceiling has all been positive. “Nothing but praise,” he states. “All interest is in the ceiling when visitors enter the space. The first thing they do is look up.”