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Capturing the Clients' Needs with Successful Design Solutions

The business world is competitive, and clients of architectural firms expect design solutions that not only solve a functional problem, but also integrate art and beauty. The Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis both fall into that category. Successful design solutions must capture clients’ needs, spirit and imagination. Public space projects must offer a unique experience for their patrons. The large interior spaces and uninterrupted floor space traditionally associated with public space projects dramatically influence each building’s interior personality. Certain projects require an unadorned flooring approach so as not to detract from the exhibits within, while others benefit from bold color and unique patterns that fill the space with excitement. Comprehensive design solutions and materials must perform, be easily maintained and continue to look good well after opening day. Some public space flooring solutions involve altering colors of running line products, while others warrant both a custom pattern and color palette. The design team elected to customize a running line product for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, a world leader in museums that serve children and families. It features interactive exhibits and colorful interior public spaces. The Children’s Museum’s most recent expansion was a 35,000-square-foot welcome center. Completed in June 2009, the center is the museum’s new front door for its more than one million annual visitors. The project features a skywalk bridge that connects the museum to its parking garage, new ticketing areas, enhanced visitor services including lockers and restrooms, an expanded retail experience, and a more generous lobby that can be utilized after hours for events throughout the year. In addition, the project relocated and expanded the InfoZone—a branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library—to a more accessible location for greater public interaction. Because of its high traffic flow and almost round-the-clock usage, the design team recognized the need to select easy-to-maintain flooring that would reinforce the clients’ image and overall building story. The welcome center’s color palette incorporates The Children’s Museum’s trademark colors of aqua blue, spring green and terra cotta. In addition, interior finishes continue the story established with the 2004 renovation of the museum’s popular interactive dinosaur exhibit, “Dinosphere: Now You’re in Their World.” The Dinosphere’s design features full size cast dinosaurs breaking out of the museum’s south side exterior. As a continuation of the story, the welcome center’s north exterior design features a parent brachiosaur lifting the roof so that its child can participate once again in the museum’s activities. The design team explored conceptual ways to incorporate the floorcovering into the overall design story. Carpet was the logical acoustical choice in the three-story space, and modular tile was selected over broadloom for maintenance and roller mobility (to accommodate stroller, wagon and wheelchair traffic). Multiple colors of walk-off tile were selected for the skywalk. Once functionality was addressed, we approached aesthetic design. The welcome center’s entry ramp provides visitors with an expansive view of its floor, making the carpeting a dynamic part of the interior design plan. The design team used the story created by the brachiosaurs breaking into the building as an opportunity to find a carpet pattern that emulated the explosion that would ensue if the event had actually occurred. It was important that the pattern’s scale be legible from above without having a regimented appearance or defined overall pattern lines. The design team selected a multi-level loop solution dyed nylon product, which is 100% recyclable and contains recycled content. Large open spaces can be affected by dye lot changes or variations, so it’s best to avoid beck or piece-dyed products when specifying large quantities. The pattern contains randomly placed 4” accent squares within a charcoal grey background. The neutral background provides a visual transition between the welcome and other areas within the museum. The carpet pattern is playful and engaging, and select positioning of the tile enhanced the feeling that dinosaurs are lifting the roof to enter the building. Because scale and colorways of running line products are typically geared toward the commercial/corporate market, the design team elected to custom-color the carpet’s accent squares and incorporate more childlike hues of blue, green and yellow that also tied into the expansive green ceiling and the museum’s existing brand. Custom-designed modular carpet patterns and a variety of hard surface materials were used once again to reflect the client’s brand in a major expansion to the Indiana Convention Center.

The Indiana Convention Center expansion was a response to ongoing increased convention and trade show demand. The more than 700,000-square-foot project includes exhibition space, meeting rooms, and pre-function and support space, all within a tight urban site. The project also includes the design of a climate-controlled pedestrian passageway between the convention center and Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. Many of the convention center’s visitors are first-time visitors to Indianapolis, so it’s very important the building exude a welcoming feel through its architecture, lighting and views in and out of the building.

Attending a convention is an experience directly related to the impact that selected finishes has on the interior environment. The building authority required selection of easy-to-maintain finished surfaces; creation of an interior that would appeal to prospective clients when both empty of exhibits and teeming with conference attendees; and the design of a facility that provides the appearance of one contiguous building. Designing for spaces like the convention center differs from other commercial projects in that these large public spaces contain open expanses of pre-function and meeting space, providing an opportunity to create a grand impression. In addition, spaces are used for long stretches of time, must hold up to heavy foot traffic, and must accommodate the use of scissor lifts and palette jacks. Because of these requirements, 36” modular multi-level loop nylon cushion-backed tile containing a percentage of recycled content was the logical floorcovering choice for the project. In addition to satisfying walking comfort, acoustical and maintenance needs, larger format tiles of 24” to 36” installed with full spread releasable adhesive respond better to wheel traffic than 18” tiles. A combination of custom colored terrazzo and walk-off tile was specified for entry areas, large format porcelain tile for restrooms, and poured urethane resinous floor was specified for service corridors and kitchen. The carpeted areas alone within the Indiana Convention Center expansion project exceed 26,000 square yards. By following architectural concepts that focused on Indiana’s landscape and glacial history, the design team elected to design its own flooring pattern to address branding, scale and color. To reflect the convention center’s brand as an Indiana landmark, the design team studied aerial photographs taken of the Indiana landscape as well as the state’s geographic characteristics. Nine different carpet patterns reflective of Indiana’s natural geographical characteristics were created for various spaces, including the integration of crop circles and grids within pre-function and gathering spaces; linear sand dune patterning at meeting room entrances; and simplified grids in meeting rooms and connecting hallways. The convention center’s complex carpet pattern responds to circulation paths and helps define gathering versus circulation spaces within pre-function zones. Carpet insets that identify meeting room entrances aid in way-finding. The expansion’s carpet color was critical both from an interior design perspective and the relationship to the existing building. The majority of the convention center expansion’s walls will be neutral. As a result, we wanted the carpet’s overall color to be warm. Because green was a predominant color throughout the existing space prior to the current expansion, the new color palette needed to coordinate with existing marble columns, pipe and drape, and meeting room upholstery. As color and pattern tend to blend over a distance, appearing lighter and cooler, the design team chose a majority of cranberry reds, golden yellows and browns, in addition to a smaller amount of green, to warm up the space and tie into existing oak and new cherry running trim. Using different hues of green—teal in meeting rooms and viridian in pre-function areas—will ensure compatibility with the existing space once the new expansion is complete. To meet the building authority’s goal that the building looks like one contiguous space, designers coordinated new and existing neutral wall colors and designed a master carpet pattern plan, which allows the operator to continue the color palette and patterns into the existing building when select areas of flooring need to be replaced. As with all projects, it’s important to test the design before placing the order. Color variation, hue and overall pattern will affect stain hiding capabilities and the longevity of the surface’s appearance. Because it’s important that carpet stains don’t stand out if they can’t be treated immediately, the carpet’s stain resistance was tested before placing the order. Coffee, red wine, ketchup and mustard were spilled on carpet tiles, and cleaned by facility staff a week later. Our client looked for two things: how obvious the stain looked before it was cleaned and how well the stain could be cleaned after a week’s time. It’s important to note that many running line and custom samples are produced on a non-running line machine. Often these machines produce carpet that represents yarn dye color and construction method only and doesn’t have topical stain resistance treatments, which will affect the outcome of testing. Make sure to confirm this before testing. A public space’s floor area is often a prominent part of the overall project. Selecting the right kind of treatment—either neutrally or with a pattern—can enhance the overall architectural design solution. In addition, material choices have a considerable impact on the overall longevity and maintenance of the space. If you want to make an impact, floor finishes provide one of the most expansive and economical mediums for large public spaces.


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