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Connecting Patterns

Metal building design reinterprets existing architecture to unify campus

Stars School Pic 2 High Res
Photo: Adam Cohen Photography

Tallahassee, Fla.-based EMI Architects accomplished two primary goals with its design for the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) on Thomasville Road in Tallahassee. It unified the school’s campus and became its architectural emblem.

To make the school’s campus buildings a cohesive group, the new building repeats colors, textures and materials of the existing architecture. Additionally, to improve traffic flow, the front of the campus was organized with a large roadway for dropping off and picking up students.

With its contemporary interpretation of existing buildings and position at the campus entrance, the new building has become the one most associated with the school’s identity.

Colors and Textures

Before the new 12-classroom building was constructed, the largest and most visually identifiable building on the campus was a former church building, behind the new building. The K-8 charter school repurposed it into an auditorium and a few classrooms. In addition to the former church building, the campus has four other existing buildings with classrooms and administration offices.

Three panel profiles were used for the project: two corrugated metal wall panels and smooth metal soffit panels. The corrugated panels are cream white and dark green, and the soffits are bright white.

The cream white panels pick up on the light color of limestone masonry on the former church building and two of the ancillary buildings. The dark green matches the former church building’s roof. The corrugated panels also pick up on the texture of wood siding on the former church building and ancillary buildings. Further connecting the architecture, the new building’s roof has an anodized mill finish, the same as other existing buildings.

Seth Coffin, RA, senior architect at EMI Architects, says, “We took a lot of the textures and colors that were found on the other buildings and patterned them on the face of this building. The different textures and colors mapped on the building created these different patterns, which made the building a little more interesting, a little less flat.”

The former church behind the new building has a steep, dark green roof. “The colors and the textures pick up on those of the [former] church, which is kind of a backdrop building to this building now,” Coffin says. “When you drive by, you have this new building that is a new face, a new emblem for the school. And in the background you can make the connection back to the older buildings through the textures and colors that we were able to pick up on in the metal siding and materials.”

For the roof, Cairo, Ga.-based Rogers Construction installed 14,000 square feet of Oklahoma City-based Star Building Systems’ standing seam roof system with a mill finish. On the walls, Rogers Construction installed 5,400 square feet of Star Building Systems’ PBD and PBU corrugated metal wall panels in Almond, Hunter Green (with Signature 300, 70 percent PVDF coating) and mill finish. It also installed 3,000 square feet of Star Building Systems’ FW smooth metal soffit panels in White with Signature 300, 70 percent

Photo: Adam Cohen Photography

PVDF coating and 380 feet of Star Building Systems’ gutters and downspouts in mill finish. Rogers Construction also erected the building structure. Havana, Fla.-based Ironwood Construction Co. Inc. was the metal building contractor for the project and supplied all the materials.

Contemporary Design

Among details EMI Architects used to create the building’s contemporary design were custom trim pieces for corners and exposed structure.

“[The custom trim] allows the metal panels to have a corner to die into, rather than be wrapped or covered by the trim,” Coffin says. “Where panel colors change as they turn a corner, it appears as though it’s more of a slice through the building so that the colors are visible on the face, rather than a piece of trim that covers a corner. For instance, in the breezeway, the mill finish extends through and acts as a termination point for the green panels that are coming across the face.”

The building also looks modern as a result of its exposed structural system. In a corridor lit with

Photo: Adam Cohen Photography

clerestory windows, beams, columns, cross bracing and other structural steel are exposed. On the exterior, exposed beams extend under the roof. “It seemed like a good idea because this was a school of arts and sciences, to expose a lot of those elements to show how the building goes together as a kit of parts,” Coffin says.

Tallahassee-based Point Glass and Metal LLC installed 900 square feet of Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based Coral Architectural Products aluminum storefront system for clerestory windows on the southeast side of the building. The storefront system was also used for entry doors and other stationary windows throughout the building.

Operable windows were used as well. Point Glass and Metal installed 500 feet of Monett, Mo.-based EFCO Corp.’s operable aluminum windows on the southeast and southwest sides of the building.

Large Loop

In addition to unifying the campus through its architecture, the project organized it with a large drop-off loop at the front entrance. The large size of the new roadway led to other decisions for the project.

“It squeezed our building’s buildable site considerably,” Coffin says. “It drove the plan of the building in that it’s a linear, elongated building with a dogtrot-style breezeway in between. It allows a longer area for cars to pull up alongside and drop kids off.”

In addition to being able to fit in a narrow footprint, a metal building fit the project’s budget. “The site work was extensive,” Coffin says. “A drainage ditch ran right down the middle of the site, basically where the drop-off loop now exists. We had to infill that area and put all the drainage underground. We then added the large bus loop, which took nearly a third of our design budget of the building. So we, together with the contractor (Midway, Fla.-based Ajax Building Corp.), made the decision that a pre-engineered metal building would be a good way to go.”

Layered Signage

To mark the main entrance, EMI Architects created dual-layered signage. Midway, Fla.-based Apogee Signs installed freestanding aluminum lettering above a canopy that spells out the school’s name. Behind the aluminum letters, vinyl letters spelling “SAS” were applied to the dark green panels. They look like a watermark on the building.

“[The vinyl letters change] depending upon your perspective of the building,” Coffin says. “We liked the idea of applying the signage directly onto the face of the building, similar to what would be painted on barns and industrial buildings. It was that same style and idea, but we didn’t want it to be too bold and in your face.”