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Observatory shimmers on Space Coast

Taking its cues from the shapes and hues of Port Canaveral, GWWO Inc./Architects designed the seven-story, 23,000-squarefoot, sail-shaped Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, Cape Canaveral, Fla., to express the characteristics transience, function and imagery.

Taking its cues from the shapes and hues of Port Canaveral, GWWO Inc./Architects designed the seven-story, 23,000-squarefoot, sail-shaped Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, Cape Canaveral, Fla., to express the characteristics transience, function and imagery.

The building's southern elevation soars from the water to the sky. It narrows in scale and reduces its exterior coverage until only the steel frame remains to outline the curvature, and comes together at a peak 60 feet above the main roof level. The tower's form, features, sun louvers, exposed structure and iridescent skin contribute to a sense of movement as the sun shifts across the structure.

Firestone Metal Products Inc. engineered and fabricated the façade's metal panel system, which was installed by Kenpat USA LLC. Radius Track Corp. fabricated the curved structural framing and provided the 3-D building information modeling, which coordinated the connection points for each panel in the building's parabolic curve. Kenpat installed 42 prefabricated structural panelized units as substructure for the cladding; the largest was 36 feet by 10 feet.

Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, which is also the port's welcome center, was painted in four phases between March 2013 and May 2013 and opened in November 2013. It was the first project in which Valspar's new Kameleon Color mica coating was spray-applied by Linetec to Firestone's UNA-CLAD metal wall panels.

GWWO Inc./Architects selected Valspar's Blue Pearl II color-changing paint for the southern seaside elevation to capture the themes of revitalization and change representative of the Port Canaveral area. The finish was selected to withstand Florida's hurricane wind speeds, sun and salt spray. Linetec applied a clear coat over the Blue Pearl II for enhanced durability. Additionally, Linetec applied Valspar's Fluropon White finish to the northern elevation's aluminum-framed curtainwall, which had views of the port.

Tim Tritch, director of sales at Valspar, says Kameleon Color, a multicolored system that uses mica flakes to create a consistent, iridescent look, was an excellent choice. "The coating utilizes a blend of ceramic and inorganic pigments to create this rich look that is both brilliant and subtle," he says.

Paul Bratz, paint plant manager at Linetec, says it was critical all paint runs maintained the same parameters. No one sprayed it before, he says, and there was some trial and error during the process. "The spray conditions, paint prep and application consistency of the paint itself were all critical," he says. "The slightest change could alter the look of the paint."

Linetec modified its paint protocol process to ensure consistency and minimize variation. The amount of paint needed for the entire project was determined and ordered as a single batch at the beginning of the project, Bratz says. "Valspar prepared the special mica technology paint all at one time with excellent consistency, taking out the variable of multiple paint batches," he adds.

The $23 million Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, owned by Canaveral Port Authority, is part of Florida's Space Coast and Canaveral Cove's revitalization. The welcome center opened during the port's 60th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing on Florida's east coast.

Owner: Canaveral Port Authority, Cape Canaveral General contractor: Skanska USA Building, Cape Canaveral

Architect: GWWO Inc./Architects, Baltimore

Finisher: Linetec, Wausau, Wis.

Installer: Kenpat USA LLC, Apopka, Fla. Master planning: AECOM, Los Angeles, and GWWO Inc./Architects

Structural engineer: Thornton Tomasetti, Washington, D.C.

Coatings: Valspar Corp., Minneapolis, www.valsparcoilextrusion.com

Curved structural framing/3-D modeling: Radius Track Corp., Minneapolis, www.radiustrack.com

Metal wall panels: Firestone Metal Products Inc., Anoka, Minn., www.firestonemetal.com