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Metal lightens design

The primary structural system of Huss Center for the Performing Arts at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minn., was precast concrete.The primary structural system of Huss Center for the Performing Arts at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minn., was precast concrete. Because of that, Daniel Yudchitz, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, senior associate at HGA Architects and Engineers, Minneapolis, says his firm looked to perforated metal to lighten the design.

"Metal was this lighter material scrim that really transcended the heavy mass of precast concrete and gives the building a visual lightness that it wouldn't have otherwise," he explains. "The overarching concept was based off that idea of lightening the mass of the precast, but then knowing that there were areas where it was in front of glass, the experience from the inside of the building is also important as well as the outside."

The façade is articulated with perforated metal panels at varying angles to screen sunlight and direct views from the inside out and the outside in. Yudchitz adds, "It seemed like a good approach that was a nice way taking precast out of its normal visual language and transform it to something that's unique and ties back to the rest of their campus, without being a literal duplication of a historical building."

MG McGrath Architectural Surfaces fabricated and installed the metal panels. On the exterior, MG McGrath fabricated and installed 5,900 square feet of Accurate Perforating Co. Inc.'s perforated metal composite material (MCM) panels and 225 square feet of Arconic Architectural Products USA's Reynobond MCM panels. Crystal Finishing Systems Inc. painted all the metal panels on the exterior in custom Pure White with a Kynar finish. Additionally, MG McGrath installed 1,233 square feet of aluminum window and wall trims in Pure White and Deep Onyx with a Kynar finish on the exterior.

The concrete behind the metal screens was painted red. "It doesn't end up looking red because you're looking through little holes, but it changes the intensity of the white, so that was fun to see. We knew we were going to get some shadow play from the screens, but we didn't exactly know what it was going to be until it was built," Yudchitz says.

McGrath installed perforated metal panels in the interior as well. The main space is a 650-seat auditorium theater lined with perforated metal. "This idea of creating a scrim between these massive

concrete walls became a theme that was then carried inside the building," Yudchitz says.

The interior perforated metal panels are similar to those on the exterior, although the perforations are slightly larger and denser on the interior than they are on the exterior. Yudchitz says this allows the interior panels to be acoustically transparent. A system of curtains that adjusts the room's acoustics was installed behind the perforated metal screens. "Depending on how the curtains are deployed or stored, you can tune the room to optimize performance for an event," Yudchitz adds.

Architect: Hammel Green and Abrahamson Inc. (HGA), Minneapolis
General contractor: McGough Construction Co. Inc., St. Paul, Minn.
Painters: Crystal Finishing Systems Inc., Schofield, Wis., and Twin City Powder Coating, Lino Lakes, Minn.
Fabricator/installer: MG McGrath Architectural Surfaces, Maplewood, Minn.,
Metal wall panels: Reynobond by Arconic Architectural Products USA (formerly Alcoa Architectural Products), Eastman, Ga.,
Perforated metal panels: Accurate Perforating Co. Inc., Chicago,