Cast Glass Centerpiece
To heighten the visual effect of the vertical channel glass, the architects specified channels in two different widths and various lengths. The channels are supported in the usual way, at top and bottom by horizontal aluminum members, but the horizontals are broken and sometimes overlapping, lending a syncopated rhythm to the exterior.
The channels are braced back to the structure with aluminum clips where required to resist wind pressure. Two-inch (5-centimeter) gaps between the channels allow them to perform the rain screen function for the aluminum wall system located six inches (15 centimeters) behind.
Rethinking the Material
U-shaped channel glass is most commonly used with the flanges facing inward for applications where natural light with translucency is desired, as in a hospital. However, Schwartz/Silver found that outward-facing flanges added more texture to the building's outer surface and added to the visual complexity.
The facades of the Shaw Center have channel glass with the flanges outward over most of their surface. However, at the building's lower levels, the flanges are pointed inward to prevent accidental damage. This is especially important given that the plaza with an interactive fountain outside the building is a favorite gathering spot for locals and a venue for concerts and other public events.
Baton Rouge is only 60 miles (100 kilometers) inland from the Gulf of Mexico. To test the glazing system against hurricane-force winds, a mockup was produced and placed in front of an old DC-3 airplane propeller to simulate wind-driven rain and for 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) per-hour wind pressures. Additional tests were done in Germany by the glass channel vendor, Bendheim Wall Systems.
Another dramatic design element of the building is the 40-foot (12-meter) cantilever over the existing Auto Hotel. Accomplished through the use of multiple steel trusses, the cantilever prevents the older structure from being overwhelmed by the new. It also frees up roof space to allow the informal display of sculpture.
A bar/restaurant leading to a roof garden and sculpture terrace cap off the Shaw Center and have already become one of the city's most photographed destinations. This diverse mixture of uses is at the heart of the vision for the Shaw Center, which within three months of opening had begun to show signs of being the economic catalyst that was the founding group's intention.
The Shaw Center is an important part of an emerging "arts and entertainment district" in Baton Rouge which will include a new state history museum, Louisiana's Old State Capitol Center, the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, the USS Kidd Museum, and a hotel/casino. Schwartz concludes: "the Shaw Center is the centerpiece of the whole district, so it had to command attention."
James McCown is director of marketing and communications for Schwartz/Silver Architects.
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