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Metal Music Box

Complementary forms, colors and textures create dance company’s engaging building

Ballet Memphis Landingpage Nov18 1
Photo courtesy of archimania

The Ballet Memphis ballet company’s building’s overall design concept, transparency, textures and colors earned it the 2018 Metal Construction News Building and Roofing Award in the New Walls category. The judging panel noted the design took the whole conception of the architecture into consideration, from the distance, as a sculptural building, to the progression of scales from the street to the sidewalk and building, where perforated screens and expansive glazing reveal views of the interior. The judges lauded the design’s transparency, interplay of standard building materials, complementary forms and colors.

Transparent Engagement

Relative to transparency, achieving a high level of community engagement with transparent elements was one of the project’s driving principles. Archimania, Memphis, Tenn., designed the rehearsal, performance and school building in Memphis to resemble a music box with animated ballerina figures. Layers of large, glazed openings, standing seam panels with a zinc finish, perforated screens and deep inserts provide views of interior activity for passers-by. Further, there is a 7-foot-wide walkway between the building and a perforated copper screenwall, courtyard, café and display window of the costume shop on the east side.

Todd Walker, FAIA, principal at archimania, says, “The perforated copper screen sits at the historic street edge enhancing the urban experience within the entertainment district, while complying with city codes and setbacks.”

Photo courtesy of archimania.

Scales, Colors, Textures

In terms of breaking up an overall design concept to break up the building’s scales, and employing complementary colors and textures, archimania specified corrugated copper and standing seam zinc panels for multiple reasons.

The forms of the metal-clad volumes, with the zinc in the center and copper at the perimeter, are complementary and break up the building’s scales. The zinc volumes have curved, concave crowns, and the perforated copper screenwall is characterized by right-angled shapes.

For colors and textures, the cool-colored zinc and warm-colored copper are complementary colors, and they break up the scale of the building. Furthermore, both materials will develop patinas and change in appearance as they age. In addition to complementing the zinc, the copper connects the building to its locale by relating to an adjacent residential area, which has some houses with copper components.

“We settled on the idea of a street-side screen early in the process, and the use of copper related well to the many older homes in the district that have copper elements,” Walker says. “In this case, copper is not only a natural material but a historic material used in a modern way.”

Walker says the process of the copper developing patinas as time passes adds a progressive quality to the building. “We wanted to make the project dynamic and energized. The copper screen looks more solid during the day and perforated at night when lights are on behind it. Plus, the varying angles of the sun make the copper ever-changing. And the natural patina process will change it further over time as well. I think copper adds an element that may be more dynamic than any other metal material we have used.”

Photo courtesy of archimania.

To construct the perforated copper screenwall, Arlington, Tenn.-based Ralph Jones Sheet Metal Inc. installed 10,000 square feet of Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Petersen Aluminum Corp.’s PAC-CLAD 7/8-inch, 20-ounce, corrugated, perforated copper panels. The project also utilized 10,000 square feet of 7/8-inch, 16-ounce, corrugated, solid copper panels. The perforation pattern is 5/16-inch round on 1/2-inch stagger.

Gordon Jones, president at Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, says, “This was an unusual project. The use of both solid and perforated corrugated copper was highly creative. We coordinated with the design team throughout the process.”

The standing seam panels are between 41 feet and 51 feet long, installed vertically. Their verticality helps break up the massing and scale of the building. “Installing vertical panels of that length is always a bit of a challenge,” Jones says.

Ralph Jones Sheet Metal installed 23,000 square feet of Petersen’s 0.032-inch aluminum Snap-Clad standing seam panels in Cool Color Metallic Zinc. On a flat roof portion of the building, PAC-CLAD Tite-Loc Plus panels were installed. To allow daylight inside at street level, some of the standing seam panels perforated are perforated in a 5/16-inch round on 1/2-inch stagger pattern.

Ballet Memphis’ building was built on a site formerly occupied by a hotel in the Overton Square entertainment district. The project expanded Ballet Memphis’ operations, and the building houses a rehearsal studio and performance space, dance classrooms and lecture halls, waiting and viewing hall, and offices.