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Project of the month - December 2005

This Just In
Hunt Completes Amarillo's Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts

With a grand opening scheduled for next month, the new performing arts facility, named for Amarillo's daily newspaper, brings a world-class 70,000-sq.-ft., 1,300-seat venue to the Panhandle.

By Rob Patterson

The new $30 million Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts in Amarillo is a unique and complex building on which common materials were used in uncommon ways. With such basic-yet-innovative touches as an interior acoustical wooden shell of oriented strand board enclosing its 1,300-seat theater and steel cattle truck panels on its lobby ceiling, the 70,000 sq. ft. structure brings an architectural showpiece to the Panhandle city.

The Dallas office of Hunt Construction Group Inc. broke ground under a guaranteed-maximum-price contract in August 2003, excavating down to 25 ft. on an empty lot in downtown Amarillo to form the theater's orchestra pit and the trap pit beneath the stage. Bell piers ranging from 24 to 60 ins. in diameter were drilled 30 to 44 ft. to support the structure, a three-story reinforced concrete shell. On top of it is a structural steel frame with a CMU infill that slopes up to 110 ft. over the theater and fly loft. It will be ready for the facility's "soft opening" this month. A grand opening is scheduled for January.

The curvilinear roof structure mimics the color, texture and shape of the walls of nearby Palo Duro Canyon. The seating bowl begins to take shape. Bell piers ranging from 24 to 60 ins. in diameter were drilled 30 to 44 ft. to support the three-story reinforced concrete shell. Images courtesy Hunt Construction Group.


The main theater section is wrapped in red sandstone, taking a cue from the walls of nearby Palo Duro Canyon. The three-level wing running the length of the center's north side is clad in yellow brick that also reflects the local natural palette, and contains administrative offices, dressing rooms and staging areas. And there's a two-story, acoustically isolated rehearsal room that serves as a children's education center and mechanical and electrical equipment on its third floor.

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"We used the materials and the structure to denote where these different functions occur," said project architect Michael Connolly of Holzman Moss Architecture of New York. "Through materials and shaping we were able to delineate the sections of the building."
The center's most unique feature is the interior wooden acoustical shell enclosing the theater. It consists of oriented strand board panels attached to a frame of yellow pine glu-lam timbers suspended from within the lower concrete and upper steel frame.
"OSB is common and cheap material, but we're using it in an uncommon way," Connolly said. "We sanded and stained it and sealed it, and you would never know that it was such a common material when you see it in place."

The 10,000 pieces of the oval shell were cut and prepared at a nearby 11,000-sq.-ft. warehouse. "We brought all the material in to the warehouse space to stage from and to do a lot of the painting and staining and preliminary cuts before bringing it to the job on a daily basis," said Kevin Cain, project manager for Hunt.

The center had sought a subcontractor to custom build the shell. "We couldn't find anyone to bid on it other than one company whose bid was outrageously high," said Globe-News Center executive director Laura Street. "Then Hunt and the architect said that they could figure it out."

The exterior walls are clad with 96 tons of handset Colorado sandstone, which continues through the lobby. The facility features exposed architectural concrete finishes. The seating area is enclosed in a custom-fabricated wood shell made of more than 10,000 pieces of wood material that was hand cut and fit into place in the field. Photos courtesy Hunt Construction Group.

The cost of the shell was $1.7 million. It features a separate movable orchestra shell suspended 2 in. above the stage on an overhead crane mounted on steel tracks, which slides into place for orchestral concerts and then moves out of the way for theatrical and pop music concert events.

"At most facilities the orchestra shell has to be manually erected and then disassembled between performances," Cain said. "With the touch of a button you can move this orchestra shell back into its storage space in what we call the garage or move it back out again onto the stage where it aligns with the wood shell to make it all one room."

The 2,205-sq.-ft. rehearsal hall and education center located in the side wing also had to be specially constructed to achieve acoustic isolation. "It was poured as a separate building inside >> the structure," Connolly said. "The slab is completely independent of the rest of the building and the structure itself is mounted on that slab with isolation joints."

Its CMU walls are clad in a mix of stained cement board and fabric-wrapped panels to achieve the needed interior acoustical properties. A sheetrock ceiling is hung on acoustical isolators from the top of the structure.

Isolating the room from the rest of the building allows for simultaneous performances. "If the symphony is performing in the theater on the stage, the opera can rehearse at the same time," Street said. "They don't hear each other and the audience doesn't know that anything else is going on," he added.

The sloped roof atop the steel frame upper level of the theater was designed to reflect the topography of the Palo Duro Canyon walls. It is formed from a series of longspan joist girders with steel purlins set in between. An 8-in. concrete roof poured atop the metal deck provides acoustical isolation. The top layer of the sloped roof consists of rubber-coated aluminum panels with snow guards and rainwater diverters.

A rolled-steel curved roof tops the lobby and portico. The ceiling is lined with metal panels usually found on the sides of cattle trucks. The feature is economical and refers to the local area's ranching commerce.

Connolly said: "If we had a metal panel ceiling we'd want to put holes in it and put a texture on it, and it would always cost money. And here are these panels and they're already punched. They're standard. So why not use them? And they fit with the surroundings as well. So it's another common material used in an uncommon way."

The lobby walls are colored concrete. The front window wall consists of blue and green panels with yellow pane accents. "The glass curtain wall depicts the rising sun over Palo Duro Canyon," Street said.

The lobby floor also mirrors the local setting. "It represents what the landscape looks like from the sky," Connolly said. "It's these long geometric fields and roadways on a grid pattern interrupted by circles where the irrigation arms make circular shapes."

A combination of three different shades of terrazzo tile and three different colors of carpet was used to achieve the effect. The same pattern was also used with different colors on the fabric upholstery on the theater seats.

"It's changing the skyline and color of downtown Amarillo," Street said.

Key Players
Construction Manager: Hunt Construction Group Inc., Dallas
Owner: Gilliland Group, Amarillo
Architect: Holzman Moss Architecture LLP, New York
Structural Engineer: Architectural
Engineers Collaborative, Austin

 


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