When officials in the Borough of Fair Lawn, N.J., decided to build a new community center to replace the town’s indoor recreational facilities that were split between two inadequately spaced buildings located at opposite ends of town, there was one overriding goal for the building’s design.
“They wanted to look forward to the future,” said architect Allen Weitzman, now a partner with Studio 5 Partnership Architects/Planners, LLC, of Glen Rock, N.J. “They really believe in the town’s motto: ‘Fair Lawn is a great place to visit; Fair Lawn is a better place to live.’”
Town officials had the vision to see beyond the two cramped facilities – totaling 14,000 square feet – that had housed the community’s recreation facilities for 20 years. The Old Library Theatre – a firehouse converted into a library – was home to the community theater group, art association and radio club. Productions were staged in a building with no sloped floors or lobby; and, candy was sold from a closet, according to Weitzman.
A separate building located across town housed the youth center – another cramped facility that featured a basketball court with no standard, according to Weitzman. “If anyone overran the boundary line, they ran into a concrete wall,” he said.
Weitzman presented a number of design options for the new facility. Rather than turning to the traditional design themes so often found in the Northeast, members of the Fair Lawn Mayor and Council’s Executive Design Committee chose a contemporary design in keeping with their commitment to the town’s future, according to Weitzman, who said this modern building design was inspired by the work of world-renowned architect Richard Meier.
“Richard Meier’s buildings are always white,” said Weitzman. “They’re always so clean and beautiful and bright.”
To create that clean, contemporary look, 24,000 square feet of Alucobond® aluminum composite material by Alcan Composites USA in the bone white color and 4 mm thickness were incorporated into the building’s wall system. Alucobond is an aluminum composite material that consists of two sheets of .02” aluminum thermobonded to a plastic core. Alucobond provides extraordinary flatness and rigidity, excellent formability, low weight and outstanding weather resistance.
The lower level of the 42,000-square-foot three-story building features four 2-foot horizontal bands of masonry in muted shades of red and yellow. This light color theme is enhanced in the two floors above. White rectangular ground-level columns support a series of white geometric shapes in the upper floors, including rectangular walls topped by a large oval designed to imitate the center’s walking track. The columns, as well as the rectangular and oval walls, are created from Alucobond in bone white. A plentiful use of rectangular windows in 2-foot, 4-foot and 6-foot heights enhances the building’s modular design by flooding the indoors with natural light.
“The shadows and textures this design creates are beautiful to watch throughout the course of the day,” said Weitzman. “The way this building glows as the light bends around the soft curve of the oval is really beautiful.”
While architecturally elegant, fabricating and effectively joining varied geometric shapes in wall panels can be a complex task for contractors. General contractor March Associates, of Wayne, N.J., turned to BAMCO, Inc., of Middlesex, N.J., for fabrication and installation of these geometric wall panels.
BAMCO utilized the 4 mm Alucobond in its premiere D500 dry joint wall system, which is fabricated in an extruded aluminum frame with compressed internal gaskets. According to BAMCO, this system is different from other dry joint panel systems on the market in that, while it can be considered a rain-screen application, it is fully ASTM tested to be a sealed panel system. Liquid water barriers are not required. Because this system seals the building with internal, hard silicone gaskets, it easily can be used for projects that include complex shapes and curved panels.
“All contractors know how difficult it is to go from round to flat (wall panels); it’s almost like you’re installing two different panel systems with the goal of providing a seamless look,” according to Bob Balaam, BAMCO sales manager, who said the Fair Lawn metal wall system was challenging to fabricate and install in a welded application due to the building’s large column wraps, volume beams, radius conditions and dry joint system.
“This was a fairly complex building design,” said Balaam. “With this project, Alucobond gave us a lot of flexibility due to the length of the panels and their ability to be formed into a radius. The Alucobond provided versatility and flexibility. … It fit well with this project. Alcan Composites was one of the specified manufacturers.”
Construction of the Fair Lawn Community Center – which was led by members of the not-for-profit Fair Lawn Community Center 501(c) 3 Inc. – began in September 2004. The building officially opened to the public in April 2006. The new 42,000-square-foot facility includes a 170-seat theater, a full-scale gymnasium for basketball, an exercise room, card room, youth lounge and art studio, as well as recreation department offices. All borough residents are eligible to use the facility at no additional charge.
“Overall, community reaction to this facility has been extremely positive,” said Weitzman.
Additionally, the building design was recognized by New York Construction magazine in its “Best of 2006 Awards” program with an award of merit for small projects.