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A Modern Façade

Winston-Salem art studio finds its own creative expression


For local architects Stitch Design Shop, creating a new facility for artists in a dilapidated section of downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., was a tall order. The design not only had to meet certain performance requirements, but it also needed a wow factor that would inspire local artists and the community as whole. A city known for its creative expression required something unique.

"We knew it had to be something fresh and bold for Winston-Salem, the City of Arts and Innovation," says Adam Sebastian, AIA, architect, Stitch Design Group. "We asked ourselves: How can we make the building glow and complement the sculpture park outside, while also making it the diffused light source for artists and functions taking place inside the building?" After quite the search effort, they finally found the perfect solution--UniQuad.

Manufactured by Lake Forest, Ill.-based CPI Daylighting Inc., UniQuad is a unitized translucent wall panel system designed specifically for high-performance building envelopes. This economical and comprehensive system is fully tested and offers both superior thermal performance and exceptional design versatility. "CPI Daylighting's UniQuad offered a look we were attracted to and we were able to pitch it to the owner as a complete envelope system that would serve the function of being a light source day and night," says Sebastian.

While searching for inspiration during the Arts for Arts Sake (AFAS) preliminary design phase, Stitch Design Shop came across Eagle Academy, a public charter pre-school in Washington, D.C., clad almost completely in 11,500 square feet of UniQuad panels. "When we saw Eagle Academy, it had such a richness to it; we knew [the UniQuad panels] would create a diffused light on the interior to meet our requirements," says Sebastian.

The AFAS building utilized over 4,860 square feet of UniQuad panels, some as tall as 31 feet, without need for any horizontal breaks in the system. UniQuad's advanced spanning capabilities, in this case achieving a clear span of little over 10 feet, allowed Stitch Design Shop to create a flush, modern façade without the need for a visually obtrusive horizontal substructure between floors. Stitch Design Group specified a red accent (the AFAS color) panel to frame the UniQuad in areas that were cut out with glass.

While UniQuad panels are offered in a wide range of colors, Ice White Matte panels were selected for both the interior and exterior glazing. This glazing combination provided AFAS with a clean, modern aesthetic during the day, which was then transformed into a beacon of community and creativity at night. "Artists work all hours of the night. So, when they're in their studios late, up close to the CPI wall, you actually see their silhouette," says Sebastian. "The panels transfer their silhouette to the outside adding a real dynamic, alive feeling. It has allowed us to create another creative element like the park. It really feels like the park and the building are one in the same."


Meeting a High-Performance Design

While the aesthetic quality of the building was an important aspect of the design, it was also crucial that the system meet the various thermal and solar performance requirements. Like Washington, D.C.-based architects Shinberg Levinas Architectural Design, who designed the LEED Silver Eagle Academy, Stitch Design Shop chose the UniQuad to promote energy savings and minimize the use of artificial light inside the artist's studios during daylight hours.

Presented with the AFAS building energy model, CPI Daylighting worked with Stitch Design Shop to ensure that all performance requirements would be met. The resulting facade provides a U-Factor of 0.26. "One of the biggest things for us was that [the UniQuad] allowed us to get to the levels where we needed them to be to meet the energy model," says Sebastian. "This building could have been all glass, but it wouldn't have had the uniqueness or the creative quality that we wanted it to have. For us, [UniQuad] was the perfect material."

The building opened in early May and is already benefiting from the UniQuad panels. The art center and studios rarely turn on their interior lights-even on cloudy days. Instead, they rely on diffused light streaming in through the panels. Until nightfall, that is, when the interior illuminates the panels from the inside out.

The AFAS facility gained the ultimate seal of approval when Stitch Design Group decided to move their office into the building because they loved the space so much. "To be partners with one of our clients in their building is a great showcase of our work," says Sebastian.


Sam Wheeler is the associate creative director at CPI Daylighting Inc., Lake Forest, Ill. To learn more, visit