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A Glowing Beacon

New community center’s translucent façade creates a city landmark

Maryland Heights Community Center

Located outside of St. Louis, the City of Maryland Heights, Mo., replaced its original community center, a converted church from the 1970s, with a new facility. Home to more than 27,000 people, the city was looking to create a new civic hub for community recreation and engagement.

Civic leaders worked with the architectural team from CannonDesign, St. Louis, on a highly interactive feasibility study to access the city’s current and future recreational needs. This led to strong support for the decision to create a new recreation center to replace the original, outdated facility.

Design goals for the 92,000-square-foot community recreation center ranged from blocking unsightly views and reducing noise, to finding a translucent façade that could meet the aesthetic needs of the building’s curved and tapered walls.

The center provides more space and a greater variety of activity areas, while still maintaining key elements to support the unique community programs offered by the previous facility. Key features include a two-court, multiuse activity court, group exercise rooms with expanded weight and cardio training areas, indoor walking/jogging track, cycling studio, and an indoor family pool with three lap lanes. Community spaces include a preschool, babysitting area, dedicated seniors space, multiuse events space, meeting rooms and police substation. In addition to expanding parking, the new center features green space for outdoor recreation and activities.

For the project, Lake Forest, Ill.-based Kingspan Light + Air LLC (formerly CPI Daylighting) provided its UniQuad translucent wall system to diminish unsightly views, glare, heat and noise without compromising the amount of daylight in the building.

Architect William Schenck, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate at CannonDesign, notes that with the building being right next to highway 270, acoustics had to be taken into consideration. “We also wanted to fill the space with natural, diffused light,” he says. “That’s why we chose [Kingspan Light + Air]’s UniQuad wall light.”

Selected for its scalability and sound reduction capabilities, the UniQuad panels were specified with an STC acoustical interlayer for the center’s east façade to mask the noise from the nearby highway.

“The clear acoustical interlayer allowed us to increase the STC level on the east façade while maintaining a consistent aesthetic with the nonacoustically treated panels,” adds Schenck. “This successfully resulted in a visually seamless transition around the building.”

With the highway being so close to the center, it was important to allow daylighting into the space, while still controlling what aspects of the surrounding landscape could be seen from inside. To accomplish this, the design team incorporated clear glass, specified in clear over white matte colors, into the façade along with the 9,284 square feet of UniQuad panels with 10-foot panel spans.

Schenck notes that the interior creates a series of alternating experiences framed by transparent and translucent materials. “The UniQuad system provides a fantastic diffused light condition that strategically limits views to the outdoors and focuses attention to the activity within.”

Additionally, due to the community center’s curved and tapered walls, the designers used insulated metal panels to align with the translucent glazing joints, creating an almost seamless transition between the two materials.

The city wanted the new facility to have a real presence across the greater community, and challenged CannonDesign to design a building that could be seen as a city landmark from all angles, including those passing by on the highway at night. “Part of the thought process behind using the [UniQuad] panels was to have a glowing beacon and lantern, an entry point and symbol for the City of Maryland Heights, during the day and night,” says Schenck.

The designers created a similar aesthetic between the translucent system and metal panels during the day, while at night transforming the facility by a glowing ribbon of translucent panels that are backlit by the interior lighting. This gives the building a noticeably unique aesthetic that helps establish a larger presence within the community.

“The new community center has become a source of pride for the community and exceeded Maryland Heights’ goals for memberships and program participation,” says Schenck.