A translucent wall system sets the facility apart from the ordinary.
When officials of the City of Maryland Heights, just outside St. Louis, committed to replacing their original community center, a converted church from the 1970s, they had big aspirations for the impact it would have on the community. A variety of design goals were specified for the new center, ranging from blocking unsightly views and reducing noise to finding a translucent facade that could meet the aesthetic needs of the building’s curved and tapered walls.
The architectural firm, CannonDesign, St. Louis, was able to meet, and go beyond, all of the design challenges with the help of UniQuad, a translucent wall system developed by Kingspan Light + Air (formerly CPI Daylighting), Lake Forest, IL (cpidaylighting.com).
A significant challenge for the project’s facade was that it required a product that would diminish unsightly views, glare, heat, and noise, without compromising the amount of daylight in the building. The center, sandwiched between one of St. Louis’ busiest highways and a strip mall, was particularly concerned with noise levels around the facility.
“Being right next to highway 270 in St. Louis, we had to take acoustics into consideration, but also wanted to fill the space with natural, diffused light. That’s why we chose UniQuad wall light,” said architect William Schenck, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate, CannonDesign.
The panels were selected for the community center for their scalability and additional sound-reduction capabilities. Specified with an STC acoustical interlayer for the center’s east facade, the panels were a critical component to the project to mask the noise coming from the neighboring highway.
“The clear acoustical interlayer allowed us to increase the STC level on the east facade while maintaining a consistent aesthetic with the non-acoustically treated panels. This successfully resulted in a visually seamless transition around the building,” explained Schenck.
The neighboring highway, in addition to being a noise source, was incredibly unsightly, so it was important to allow daylighting into the space while being able to control what aspects of the nearby landscape visitors could see from inside the facility. CannonDesign incorporated clear glass into the facade of the 90,000-sq.-ft. center in conjunction with the 9,284-sq.-ft. of UniQuad panels, specified in clear over white matte colors, to provide the appropriate views necessary to achieve the solution.
“The interior of the building creates a series of alternating experiences framed by transparent and translucent materials,” said Schenck. “The UniQuad system provides a fantastic diffused-light condition that strategically limits views to the outdoors and focuses attention to the activity within.”
The overall building design was also a huge point of concern for the community center due to its curved and tapered walls. Not only was the UniQuad system able to meet the design needs of the facility, while boasting an impressive 10-ft. panel span, but also by using insulated metal panels that aligned with the translucent glazing joints, an almost seamless transition was created between the two materials.
Another important component of the center’s design was that the city wanted the facility to have a real presence across the greater community. Early in the design process the city challenged the architects to design a building that could be seen as a city landmark from all angles—specifically by those driving on the highway, even at night.
“Part of the thought process behind using the panels was to have a glowing beacon and lantern, an entry point and symbol for the City of Maryland Heights, during the day and night,” said Schenck.
To achieve this, the building was designed to offer a similar aesthetic between the translucent system and metal panels during the day, while at night the facade is transformed by a glowing ribbon of translucent panels as they are backlit by the interior lighting. The resulting aesthetic is noticeably unique, and helps to establish the large presence within the community that city officials wanted to accomplish.
“The new community center has become a source of pride for the community and exceeded Maryland Heights’ goals for memberships and program participation,” said Schenck. The community center earned CannonDesign a 2017 AIA St. Louis Honor Award.