Moody Center Feels Like Approachable Arena

Offset levels and contrasting building materials break down the massing of the Moody Center at University of Texas at Austin and make it feel approachable from ground level.

Alternating, offset levels and mix of materials break down building’s massing

By Christopher Brinckerhoff

Photo: Chase Daniel

The events arena has a combination of expansive, wood-clad soffits that curve inward and continue into the interior, alternating layers of dark brown, metal-clad levels and reflective, transparent, glazed levels. Also, the building sits on a concrete and landscaped base. The alternating layers break down the massing of the 530,000-square-foot basketball and events arena.

Also contributing to breaking down the massing of the building and making it feel approachable, the Moody Center has a variety of colors and textures including vertical sunshade fins that wrap around the building.

The judges for the 2023 Metal Architecture Design Awards commended the design’s use of different claddings to define building masses, and the masses to define outdoor and interior spaces. For these reasons and more, they recognized the Moody Center with a Judges’ Award.

A statement about the LEED Gold-certified project on Gensler’s website (their office in Austin, Texas, designed the project) reads, in part, “Engagement drives the design, blending indoor/outdoor spaces together into a cohesive, brand-forward experience.”

Photo: Chase Daniel

Sunshades and Brackets

Prominent features include 70,000 square feet of curved, wood-veneered soffits that continue into the building as ceilings and walls, and vertical fin sunshades that wrap around it at the base.

With respect to the fin sunshades, Vince Neault, business development manager at KSC Inc. in Irving, Texas, says, “The entire venue is wrapped in an MCM (metal composite material) panel system with custom anodized fins that extrude from the sides of the project to reduce direct sun exposure, contribute to the building’s energy performance, and provide a design element that is pleasing to the eye. These fins were applied to the exterior using custom brackets that were integral to the design inspiration; they needed to be hidden, yet still structurally sound.”

Photo: Chase Daniel

KSC attached the fin sunshades to the building with brackets that, in most places, are partially concealed by metal panels.

More specifically, looking directly down on top of one of the two-piece brackets, it looks like a capital letter Y attached to a capital letter T. The stem of the Y-shaped part is attached side-by-side to the stem of the T-shaped part. The fins are attached between the arms of the Y-shaped part and the brackets are attached to the building structure through the arms of the T-shaped part. Importantly, when installed, the arms of the T-shaped part are concealed behind metal panels.

“Any notching is done on the backside of the panel so that essentially you don’t see the bracket itself; it’s covered up by the panels,” Neault says. “Then, you get a thin a blade that protrudes between the panels, and then the 12-inch giant airfoil fin mounts onto that. This thing is really an orchestrated event.”

To produce the vertical sunshades, Carrollton, Texas-based Western Extrusions Corp. fabricated 12-inch-wide extruded aluminum airfoil tube fins and anodized them in Dark Bronze. They vary in length from 10 feet to 16 feet.

Photo: Chase Daniel

Tight Tolerances

For all of the components of the vertical fin sunshades and metal panels to be assembled correctly, Neault says fabrication and installation tolerance requirements were extraordinarily tight. “The tolerances were unusual for metal facade construction. Typically, if you’re within a sixteenth of an inch, you’re doing well. The goal was a maximum of plus or minus a sixteenth of an inch, and that was too radical, so we had to trim it down to plus or minus a thirty-second of an inch.”

To fabricate and install the metal panels and sunshades, KSC laser scanned the building and continued laser scanning throughout the installation. BIM models and mockups were produced.

“There are tons and tons of precise measurements,” Neault says. “The vertical fins on the outside of the building had to be spaced precisely and plumb. They all run parallel, and they’re all spaced 15 or 16 inches apart. The brackets have to be mounted at the building very precisely, and then the panels have to be made to sit between those brackets. So, you have basically a blade from the bracket that comes through between two adjacent panels; everything is very close.”

To build a rout-and-return rainscreen system, KSC fabricated and installed 37,000 square feet of Chesapeake, Va.-based Mitsubishi Chemical America–ALPOLIC Division’s 4-mm-thick MCM panels with a fire-resistant (FR) core. The MCM panels are coated in PVDF Kynar Dark Bronze.

Photo: Chase Daniel