Try not to look up.
See if you can resist staring at an immense undulating pattern of 4 x 18″ beams. The playful geometry 38 feet up is a thrilling example of architectural ingenuity, manufacturing prowess, and resolve during the installation.
Welcome to the 41,470-square-foot Grand Hall, a signature addition to the $55 million renovation of the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, Okla. The makeover was completed in August 2020 for this 59-year-old convention facility ranked among North America’s top 20.
The Grand Hall ceiling defines the persistence of vision. A few individuals central to the award-winning project are Beau Johnson and a pair of Joshes—Josh Prock and Josh Miller.
Johnson is a senior executive at Specified, a Texas-based manufacturer’s rep serving architects and specifiers. Prock and Miller are project leaders at M.L. Jones, a specialty contractor based in Tulsa that was responsible for the ceiling installation. A chat with all three reveals at least six takeaways:
1. Think Boldly. Why constrain yourself if you have a good idea? The center’s design architect, Forest for the Trees, working in partnership with the architect of record, Matrix AEP, took a “why not?” approach to add buzz and surprising flair to a sprawling, otherwise ordinary multipurpose space.
2. Shop Your Idea. Ceiling design can have a transformative effect on nearly any interior space. Don’t be discouraged if your regular supplier waves off innovative thinking with “It’s not within our parameters.” Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
3. Identify a Can-Do Supplier. Johnson’s company represents several architectural material suppliers. He knows some are more open-minded than others, especially when it comes to fabrication. “There are only a handful of manufacturers to choose from for a project of this type,” he explains. “We work with one manufacturer that says bring your idea to us, let us try. Their willingness to say yes to nearly any idea separates them from others.”
4. Trust Next-Gen Manufacturing. The 4 x 18″ beams dancing across the Grand Hall look like Russian maple mass timber. But they’re actually an aluminum ceiling product called Tavola™ Tall Beam & Baffles from CertainTeed Architectural. Not only is their laminate finish nearly indistinguishable from mass timber, but they are lightweight and cost-effective, and also have a class A fire rating, high NRC-rated acoustic performance, and GREENGUARD Gold certification.
5. Expect Manufacturer Support. The CertainTeed Architectural team simplified the project with very detailed shop drawings that were “easy enough for installers to understand,” reports Prock. Adds Johnson: “They also understood all the items that go into the plenum, like audio visual and MEP equipment. Their design and suspension system anticipated that.”
6. Overcommunicate. Despite the complexity, all three agree the project went well. Everyone knew the stakes. “We had issues, of course. But everyone tackled them head-on, never shied away from doing the right thing, especially CertainTeed Architectural,” says Johnson.
No job is perfect. That’s construction. When everything does align, it can be magic. Today nearly a full acre of it is on permanent display in the Grand Hall ceiling.
Learn more about how to enhance your next project with the natural warmth and beauty of a laminated wood finish, but with the value and performance of a metal ceiling.
Originally Published by Architect Magazine: https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/6-winning-lessons-from-an-acre-of-ceiling-magic