Artful Arches

April 1, 2003
Artful Arches

A softly curved ceiling and understated walls define the art gallery ambience achieved in the lobby of the Venture III Center at North Carolina State University.

Visit the Web site of North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus and you'll find that partnership, innovation and solutions are three key words that describe the mission of the school's unique research and development campus. Those same three words can also describe the design and installation of a unique, vaulted metal ceiling in the lobby of Venture Center III, one of the newest facilities on the campus.As a result of collaboration between the architect, interior finishes contractor and ceiling manufacturer, the recently-opened office building not only features a lobby that has an upscale look, but also one that has the feel of an art gallery.Located adjacent to North Carolina State's main campus in Raleigh, NC, the sprawling, 1,334-acre Centennial Campus is a research "community" where university, industry and government partners interact in multidisciplinary programs directed toward the solution of contemporary problems. Situated around a small, picturesque lake, the campus consists of several R&D "neighborhoods" supported by an advanced technology infrastructure. One of the neighborhoods, called Venture Center, is home to a number of entrepreneurial businesses as well as organizations that can offer consulting services to the incubator companies. When complete in 2003, the center will consist of five buildings totaling 478,000 square feet of space. Four of the buildings house office and research space, while the fifth, called Venture Place, also features retail and food services. The newest of the five-building cluster to open is called Venture III, and features 115,000 square feet of office space. Venture III, as well as Venture I and II, was designed by the architectural firm of Jenkins Peer, Charlotte, NC.According to Tyke Jenkins, a principal of the firm, one of the highlights of the Venture III facility is the vaulted metal ceiling that greets tenants and visitors when they enter the building's lobby. Jenkins explains that this lobby is more upscale than those in the other Venture buildings. "The lobbies in Venture I and II are more traditional," he describes. "In the case of Venture III, the developer wanted a lobby that would be more of a treat to the eye."To accomplish the developer's goal, Jenkins and his team designed a lobby that features the vaulted metal ceiling, fabric-covered walls, a marble and carpet floor, and a variety of artwork on the walls. "The combination of the softly-curved ceiling and the soft, pastel-colored fabrics almost gives the space the feeling of an art gallery," he says.Jenkins and his design team chose an Armstrong MetalWorks RH200 curved ceiling in a silver gray finish for the lobby. One of the reasons was its color."We used anodized aluminum on the exterior of the building," he says. "By using the same color steel in the lobby, we were able to tie the interior and exterior together." Accessibility, durability and aesthetics were other factors in the decision.Acoustics also needed to be considered. In this regard, the team chose a perforated vault with acoustical fleece rather than a non-perforated vault. "The perforations provide an opening for sound to enter and be absorbed, rather than striking a hard surface and be reflected. We wanted some degree of acoustic control in the lobby, and this provides it," Jenkin notes.The lobby itself measures 14 feet in width and runs the entire length of the building, connecting a courtyard on one end to Venture Place on the other. The ceiling design features a pair of suspended, symmetrical vaults separated by a slot down the middle that contains light fixtures, sprinklers and HVAC elements. Installation of the ceiling was handled by Paul Barbour & Sons, Inc., an interior finishes contracting firm based in Fuquay-Varina, NC. According to Andy Denning, the firm's vice president, the Venture III project was unique in that it was his company's first installation of an Armstrong custom metal ceiling. "There was some apprehension in the beginning, which is to be expected when you're installing any manufacturer's new product for the first time," he states. However, when the materials arrived, he was pleasantly surprised. "It went up in a day and a half without any hiccups," he notes.Denning added that installation was made easier because an Armstrong Architectural Specialties representative was at the site at the start of the job. Architectural Specialties is the Armstrong consultative service that provides project management for the company's MetalWorks and WoodWorks ceiling systems. According to Denning, the arc of the vaulted ceiling was custom made to meet the architect's specifications. "The radius of the arc in these ceilings can vary from very small to very large, depending on the design criteria," he explains. "However, with the advancements in computer and CAD technology, it's becoming easier to design these complicated shapes and to have those shapes manufactured into metal ceilings."Jenkins notes that Venture IV, the final building in the complex, is now nearing completion. And, based on the Venture III experience, you can bet that its design incorporates the same spirit of partnership, innovation and solutions that pervades the entire Centennial Campus.

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