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South of the Border Success

Desert modernism and metal make an innovative headquarters

Ma Building Profile Nov17 2 Copy

For the past 33 years, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico-based Lintel has been designing and constructing highly functional, award-winning, light-industrial facilities throughout Mexico. It provides complete design services and performs construction under a single contract, which results in enhanced quality control, greater cost effectiveness and reduced time for project completion. How would all of this come into play when it used its own design-build construction model on its new headquarters in Ciudad Juárez?

Lintel’s involvement started at the building’s inception, and it undertook all conceptual designs, materials selection, interior design and complete construction. Lintel management wanted its headquarters to “reflect innovation as an innate essence of the company’s DNA, and be an expression of the transparency and best practices.” The headquarters references “desert modernism” while asserting itself as a new-millennium structure communicating the power of innovation, the value of transparency and confidence in the future.

What is desert modernism? “Wide, open spaces like those you see in the desert, predominated by strong horizontal lines and a minimalist aesthetic that sets the stage for contemporary, cohesive architecture that imitates the desert’s colors and sober, austere geometries,” says Adrian Lugo, general director at Lintel. “We sought to erect a monument in contrast (and complement) to its high-desert surroundings. And perhaps that monument might serve as a metaphor of the forward-looking Ciudad Juarez whose industriousness, belief in the future and willingness to embrace the new, in both its people and its business community, have allowed the city to overcome conflict, advance and stay on the global cutting edge.”

RECTANGULAR ANCHORING STRUCTURES

Two rectangular anchoring structures, clad in Benchmark by Kingspan Insulated Panels Inc., Deland, Fla., and Morin Corp., a Kingspan Group company, Bristol, Conn., color sheet panels, rise two stories to support an expansive, 88-foot tripartite bridge. These two elements, towers A and B, are constructed from the same material. “The façade panels characteristics are Kynar color Kolorshift Dusty Rose 36-inch-high with variable widths and lengths,” says Marina Gonzalez, LEED AP, project engineer at Lintel. “The panel is made of a 22-gauge sheet sandwich panel with 2-inch-thick PolyISO board in between.”

 The building’s visual appearance changes as you walk between those two points. “The single material we used also changes in appearance depending on environmental conditions like sunlight, or nighttime, and with every different hour of the day,” Gonzalez says. “This is Lintel: we have maintained the same principles we believed in at the start; but we’ve transformed and evolved to take on new challenges in changing environments. The structure transitions by means of its bridge, designed to overcome obstacles as it connects points A and B. The transformative element found all along thebridge are literally the people working there, what we call their ‘lintelligence’ and the outcomes of their efforts.”

How can the building look one color in the early morning and another color in the late afternoon? “It comes from the paint on the metal panels (Kolorshift technology) that creates an iridescent effect that changes color depending on your vantage point, angle and the time of day,” Gonzalez says. The western anchor houses the main entrance and stairs leading to the reception area. The eastern anchor houses conference rooms and opens onto another irregularly rectangular space (also finished in color sheet panel) that extends further north, in a “mock cantilever” effect supported by elegant, angular piers. The angular piers provide required structural support while merging with the bridge, which is the main structural element. The bridge is finished in cool, green-tinted yet fully transparent glass from Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass), Pittsburgh. “Unfinished” interiors reflect a similar transparency via exposed beams and ducts, picture windows and glass walls as well as an open work plan.

Spaceship-like, the structure floats over stark surroundings, yet connects to and complements them, in a variable, compelling palette of earth tones; bold structural geometries pay homage to the Chihuahuan Desert’s angular beauty. “The sun’s daily arc is a protagonist as well, altering the hue of the building’s signature metallic panels, hour after hour, in complementary play with surrounding mountains, vegetation and other natural elements,” Gonzalez says. “Work areas are flooded with natural light throughout the day. The full architectural staging is a serene, futuristic juxtaposition of solidity and weightlessness, with an emphasis on harmonies between the natural and built environments.”

METAL IN MEXICO

The structure’s signature use of top-quality color sheet panel, in addition to near-total reliance on metal to address structural requirements, was key to the building. Metal construction—rare in northern Mexico—is a compelling presence.

Why is metal construction rare in northern Mexico? “Concrete has always been the default, if not the sole material, in this part of the world,” Lugo says. “[But,] Lintel continually seeks to stay at the vanguard of its industry and this led us to actively seek an out-of-the-box design we hope will help consolidate a more appealing and sustainable option in Mexico’s desert regions. We chose metal to show there are methods and materials that can lead to structures that are not only architecturally appealing, but also sustainable, lightweight, practical and durable. In contrast to the region’s concrete constructions, steel asserts perfectly straight lines and invariably flawless surfaces, impeccable corners and bold contrast-framing for fenestrations. It remains clean and impervious to elements and dust, allowing for an expression of lasting beauty despite full exposure.”

Metal helped the building remain stable in an environment of extreme temperatures and climate variation. Placing a lightweight structure on steel pillars permits enhanced rainwater recharge. This also prevented altering the site’s original topography and maximized use of the lot’s irregular shape. The structure’s color sheet panels were made of 80 percent recycled materials. The panels’ excellent insulating properties, a benefit to energy savings and reduced HVAC costs, is a critical consideration for any construction in northern Mexico. The building is listed with the USGBC seeking LEED certification.

An external metal soffit was also installed. The soffit characteristics are a 24-gauge panel, 12-inchwide in variable lengths, with a Kolorshift Dusty Rose finish, with accessories and flashings similar to the façade panel. “The visibly aesthetic, pleasing joints of the soffit matched the modulation of the façade, covered the cantilever structure,” says Gonzalez. “Inside of the soffit between the cantilever structure and the concrete deck we installed a 6-inch thermally insulated fiberglass roll, with R-19 value. This insulation generates an energy-saving solution for the interior of the building.”

Metal allowed Lintel to make a corporate statement. “Steel’s lightness succeeds metaphorically as well, elevating both the profile of the building and the work that takes place within it,” Lugo says. “No glass or concrete could produce the panels’ iridescent effects, drawing every eye to the structure as it coruscates and re-colors with each passing hour. This shifting palette of browns, greens, copper and pinks expresses the company’s dynamism, diversity and commitment to both smart technologies and bold aesthetics. Lintel’s steel-constructed and metal-finished headquarters may well be its most impactful and eloquent signature to date.”