One of a Kind

Feb. 1, 2004
Janet Wiens

The past, present and future of the cable and telecommunications industry are showcased in the vibrant new 74,000-square-foot, $15.5 million Cable Center. Designed by RNL Design, the center reflects the passion and state-of-the-art technology of the market.

FEATUREOne of a KindThe past, present and future of the cable and telecommunications industry are showcased in the vibrant new Cable Center.Turning on the television today compared with 50 years ago is almost like comparing a diner that serves only hamburgers to a smorgasbord. Television has evolved from a black-and-white medium with limited programming choices and channels to a 24/7, color-filled communication and entertainment option with so many shows that it's almost impossible to digest them all.The cable television industry has played a significant role in shaping our viewing options. Thus, it is fitting that there is now a home to celebrate the accomplishments of this relatively young industry.The 74,000-square-foot, $15.5 million Cable Center is a striking facility located on the University of Denver campus. This educational, training and research institution for the cable and telecommunications industry was designed to convey the industry's global impact to visitors and those within the market through a variety of ways.Designed by RNL Design, Denver, CO, the headquarters facility had to reflect the passion and state-of-the-art technology of the marketplace while also respecting the architecture of the surrounding University of Denver campus."We started with a very challenging program," says Josh Gould, AIA, RNL's project principal and CEO. "Our design had to be worthy of a headquarters structure—one with a progressive image—while also having a great deal of public access space. We worked closely with the owners of The Cable Center and officials from the university to ensure that our design would be highly functional as well as very sensitive to the architecture of the surrounding campus."The building's exterior is primarily limestone and copper, materials also found on other campus buildings. Individuals approaching the center walk beside The Drendel Gardens, a lush outdoor space that can be used for outdoor functions. A wonderful glass entry allows visitors to see into the interior while also allowing natural light to cascade into the space.The interior of the Cable Center includes the three-story Great Hall, a 200-seat theater, a library, interactive exhibits and learning stations, a lab for demonstrating technological innovations, a distance learning studio, board and briefing rooms, and an institute for research.RNL centered on the theme "The Power of the Coaxial Cable" as the solution for conveying the center's mission. Technology, interactive exhibits and materials both in and between major program spaces result in a facility that provides something for visitors of all ages whether they are familiar with the industry or not.The Great Hall is a soaring space that offers visitors a dynamic introduction to the center. It features 98 video monitors showing live broadcasts from various cable entities. The stone used on the building's exterior was also used inside the great hall as a transitional element. An abstract world map in the terrazzo floor conveys the industry's global reach. The space serves both as the facility's main door and for social gatherings."The Great Hall is a wonderful space that presented several design challenges," says Carl Hole, RNL's project manager/senior associate. "The volume of the space required that we give special consideration to acoustics and lighting." The artistic treatment used in the ceiling—a semi-circular design with ribs that radiate to the glass wall—helped address acoustical issues through the materials that were used for the ceiling. The Heritage Walk, a bridge over the main floor of the Great Hall, has absorptive material on the underside to help achieve the required acoustics while perforated metal panels provide additional acoustic treatment.Hole says that the airflow through the space would normally have required large ducts, an arrangement not preferred for aesthetic considerations. The solution was to route airflow through the columns.The Headend overlooks the Great Hall and is the control room for all voice, data and video transmissions in the building. Visitors reach the Headend via a monumental staircase leading from the Great Hall to the Heritage Walk, which in turn leads to the Headend and the demonstration academy where presentations on the industry are made to news organizations and leaders in education and business.Fiber optics in the museum's floor, ceiling and walls create visual interest while also serving as a soft light source within the space. Eye-catching exhibits combined with other design touches make the space very lively.The theater seats 150 on the main floor with an additional 50 seats on a mezzanine level. The curved perforated metal ceiling provides a connection to the Great Hall while also presenting another reference to the center's high-tech image and mission. Wood paneling on the stage frame, acoustical panels on the walls and the earth-toned carpet create a delicate warmth within the theater.Both the boardroom and the briefing room have wonderful views to the surrounding campus and city, a touch that must certainly be appreciated by those attending all-day meetings or social gatherings within either of the rooms. Cherry paneling, patterned carpet and a two- by two-foot perforated metal ceiling grid were used in both rooms. Light sources vary and include both direct and indirect fixtures. State-of-the-art telecommunications systems in both rooms will accommodate any meeting requirement.Hole says that environmental concerns were also a key design consideration. "We used an ice storage system to help cool the building. We also minimized the size of the southwest exposures and incorporated an automated mechanical shade on the building's exterior glazing to help reduce the amount of heat caused by the sun that is introduced into the building. These two approaches help to reduce energy consumption."

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