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Message From the Director: Part 2 — ‘Top 10’ Tilt-Up Projects

In the previous edition of Tilt-Up Today I presented the first half of my Top 10 buildings list along with my reasoning for their inclusion. I didn’t receive much feedback or challenges so I’m going to plunge forward and expand my list. Alan Wilson and I presented our top projects as the intro to the fall convention. My individual list differs slightly from the projects we jointly agreed to present but it is still amazing how many we agree on.

I urge you to contact us with projects you feel should be included in a Top 10 list. I realize that the Top 10 for an architect will likely differ from the Top 10 from an engineer or contractor but we have to start somewhere. While I am an architect, I am also the director of TCA and as such, I considered more than aesthetics when reviewing projects. I also left one project off my list that I thought deserved mention because no one on the team (to the best of my knowledge) is a member of the TCA.

Here, “in no particular order”, is the next installment of my Top 10 list.

Bishop Gadsden Church, Charleston, SC. The driving force behind the design of this project was the need to match other buildings in the area with a texture called “tabby stucco”. In essence, the wall texture was formed by tens of thousands of oyster shells placed on edge in a sand bed with concrete cast over the top. Yes, that’s right! The result is truly unique and very attractive but it didn’t come without trial and error. TCA recommends constructing a sample panel for approval whenever any type of new, different, or critical architectural treatment is proposed and this project is a classic case in defense of this recommendation. The oyster shells were placed by hand, by several different workers. When the first sample panels were unveiled, patterns were noticed in the finish even though all workers put them with the same orientation. It turns out that each worker employed tendencies that, when placed side-by-side, were subtly visible. This was resolved by having workers shift positions at designated intervals. Another innovation not visible to the casual observer is that the quoins (alternate sized corner blocks) are actually “toothed” into the adjacent panels. Not an easy feat with the joint size employed. If you are looking for a building outside the box, this one should be near the top of your list.

Stapleton Business Center, Building E1, Denver, CO. How did a big box distribution center make my list? If you drive by it on your way from the Denver airport to downtown you can find out first-hand. This structure is huge, but the manner in which the designers combined and modified the basic construction elements, brings a sense of scale (not necessarily human scale) to the project. There are panels in front of panels, shadow (stand-off) panels, corner panels that extend beyond the corner, voids, contrasting color within panels, reveals, and horizontal windows. There is even a panel that looks like it could move along a rail attached above the panel. Color was artfully used to break up the height and width and to provide accent. This is a must for anyone who wants to see how simple elements and techniques can be combined for a varied and interesting result.

Fossil Ridge Intermediate School, St. George, UT. This project is a testament to the fact that site cast Tilt-Up can accomplish in the field project quality that is equal to (some will argue superior to) what is attainable in a factory setting. The quality of the exposed aggregate finish employed is first rate and the fact that two different textures were used added considerable interest to the façade. This project, like many others in the area, borrowed its color from the surrounding soil and mountains. The color, combined with its variations from segment to segment, blend perfectly with the surrounding landscape. The exposed aggregate finishes extend to the interior of the building where an art panel, expressing the geological heritage of the area, is highly visible in the gymnasium of the structure.

Miami Children’s Museum, Watson Island, FL. Form, that’s what this project is all about. My presentations are often about how easy it is to break outside the standard rectilinear motifs so common in most Tilt-Up Buildings. Panels don’t need to have flat tops; they don’t all have to be in a line along the building elevation; they can employ angularity and curved forms. This building does all of that and more. A curving form along the top of the main portion of the building undulates over the entire length of the elevation, spanning many panels. These are contrasted by other panels with strong angular lines along the top of the panels which are oriented in a somewhat saw tooth pattern when viewed from above. The variations are further highlighted with alternating paint schemes. The structure also incorporates another feature relatively easy to do in Tilt-Up when compared to other building methods – the concept of a non-rectilinear opening. In this case, the openings are circular and probably cost no more – when you think about it they may have been less – than a standard unglazed rectangular opening.

Jacksonville Beach Pavilion, Jacksonville, FL. Tilt-Up for a performing arts venue? Not likely, unless the facility is designed for outdoor performances, sits a stone’s throw from the ocean, and is in prime hurricane territory, in which case it is probably the only construction method you should consider. As with all other buildings in my Top 10 list, this project goes well beyond the simple concept of a Tilt-Up building. The side walls flare outward to improve acoustics while the tops of the panels employ a curved form that spans several panels. They are reminiscent of the giant waves just over the dunes.

Other panels are curved “in-plane”. This was accomplished by building a form in an excavated area that allowed the panel top to curve in an axis parallel to its length. The last innovative feature employed in this ground-breaking facility was the sound attenuation baffles cast directly into the concrete wall panels. I’ve been in many theatres where projecting foam baffles are glued to the walls. That obviously wouldn’t work in this exposure so forms (polystyrene) in the shape of sound baffle shapes, similar in design to what might have been used as a glue-on, were manufactured. A recessed baffle was then cast directly into the panels.

The TCA Fall Convention in 2009 is being held north of Jacksonville. I strongly recommend a side trip to this facility as it will likely be a part of the self-guided building tour we plan to create for this event.

That concludes my Top Ten projects but I have a few more I would like to include. Perhaps next issue I’ll do another 5 of my “Top 10” projects.


Ed Sauter, Executive Director

TCA Board of Directors

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.