Metal Architecture Home

A Light-Dappled Wall


Perforated panels direct sunlight on concrete structure

Photo: Joe Brennan, Phalanx Studios

The primary structural system of Huss Center for the Performing Arts at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minn., was precast concrete. Because of that, Daniel Yudchitz, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, senior associate at HGA Architects and Engineers, Minneapolis, says, his firm looked to perforated metal to lighten the design.

"Metal was this lighter material scrim that really transcended the heavy mass of precast concrete and gives the building a visual lightness that it wouldn't have otherwise. The overarching concept was based off that idea of lightening the mass of the precast, but then knowing that there were areas where it was in front of glass, the experience from the inside of the building is also important as well as the outside."


Façade Articulation

The façade is articulated with perforated metal panels at varying angles to screen sunlight and direct views from the inside out and the outside in. Yudchitz says, "It seemed like a good approach that was a nice way taking precast out of its normal visual language and transform it to something that's unique and ties back to the rest of their campus, without being a literal duplication of a historical building."

HGA tested numerous paper mockups to determine the optimal perforation size and closeness. "We didn't want it to feel like you were in a cage, and that was where even just some slight changes in the size or the density of the perforations had a pretty big impact," Yudchitz says.


Multiple Metals

Photo: Joe Brennan, Phalanx StudiosYudchitz says the use of metal in multiple ways throughout the building reinforced its presence. "I think it really heightens your awareness of the material and in some ways it kind of opens you up to the other experiences of it inside the hall and from the outside," he says.

Maplewood, Minn.-based MG McGrath Architectural Surfaces fabricated and installed the metal panels. On the exterior, MG McGrath fabricated and installed 5,900 square feet of Chicagobased Accurate Perforating Co. Inc.'s perforated metal composite material panels and 225 square feet of Eastman, Ga.-based Arconic Architectural Products USA's Reynobond metal composite material panels. Crystal Finishing Systems Inc.'s Schofield, Wis., office painted all the metal panels on the exterior in custom Pure White with a Kynar finish. Additionally, MG McGrath installed 1,233 square feet of aluminum window and wall trims in Pure White and Deep Onyx with a Kynar finish on the exterior.


Color Scheme

The white panels refer to the adjacent Science Wing, a modernist building to which the Huss Center is connected. Yudchitz says the character of the building changes based on sunlight. When direct sun reflects on the primary surface, the building looks white. "And then there's other times when it reads completely differently. You'll see more of the concrete behind it," Yudchitz says.

The concrete behind the metal screens was painted red. "It doesn't end up looking red because you're looking through little holes, but it changes the intensity of the white, so that was fun to see. We knew we were going to get some shadow play from the screens, but we didn't exactly know what it was going to be until it was built."


Acoustic Transparency

Photo: Joe Brennan, Phalanx StudiosMcGrath installed perforated metal panels in the interior as well. The main space is a 650-seat auditorium theater lined with perforated metal. "This idea of creating a scrim between these massive concrete walls became a theme that was then carried inside the building," Yudchitz says.

The interior perforated metal panels are similar to those on the exterior, although the perforations are slightly larger and denser on the interior than they are on the exterior. Yudchitz says this allows the interior panels to be acoustically transparent.

A system of curtains that adjusts the room's acoustics was installed behind the perforated metal screens. "Depending on how the curtains are deployed or stored, you can tune the room to optimize performance for an event," Yudchitz says.

MG McGrath fabricated and installed 3,500 square feet of Accurate Perforating's perforated aluminum wall panels in Bronze Amulet with a powdercoated finish and 1,040 square feet of Accurate Perforating's perforated aluminum heater fin covers in Silent Delight with a powdercoated finish in the interior.

Some of the aluminum wall panels on the first floor in the auditorium, mounted on hinges, open and expose the acoustical material mounted on the back of them. Twin City Powder Coating, Lino Lakes, Minn., painted all the perforated metal panels in the interior.

The Huss Center for the Performing Arts is used for musical and theatrical productions, school gatherings and community events. In addition to the auditorium, it contains a 180-seat multiuse space, space for costume and set design and vaulted common space.

Photo credit: Joe Brennan, Phalanx Studios

Huss Center for the Performing Arts at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, Minn.
Completed: September 2015
Total square footage: 36,000 square feet
Architect: HGA Architects and Engineers, Minneapolis,
General contractor: McGough Construction Co. Inc., St. Paul, Minn.,
Painters: Crystal Finishing Systems Inc., Schofield, Wis.,, and Twin City Powder Coating, Lino Lakes, Minn.,
Fabricator/installer: MG McGrath Architectural Surfaces, Maplewood, Minn.,
Metal wall panels: Reynobond by Arconic Architectural Products USA (formerly Alcoa Architectural Products), Eastman, Ga.,
Perforated metal panels: Accurate Perforating Co. Inc., Chicago,