The Donald and Nancy de Laski Performing Arts Center on the Fairfax, VA campus of George Mason University is a place where students can create beautiful music, dance and theater pieces. But the building is a thing of beauty in its own right, thanks in part to the incorporation of metal shingles fabricated from aluminum by Englert Inc. for its design.
A 20,000 sq. ft. addition completed in 2010 changed not only the look of the original building, but its functionality as well. The space includes a 5,000-square-foot instrumental rehearsal hall, which can accommodate orchestras, band and choruses of up to 250 people; two 2,500-square-foot dance studios; a percussion studio; a suite where the performing arts medicine clinic will operate to serve all College of Visual and Performing Arts students; and instrument storage facilities.
The addition’s soft flowing exterior forms are designed in the spirit of the music and artistic movement embodied within. The metal exterior design played an important role in changing that exterior function, both in terms of accessibility and campus aesthetics, softening the impact of the more rectangular adjacent buildings and enhancing an existing courtyard. The metal facade replaced a non-descript entryway and helped produce a clearly defined front entrance leading to a reception and lobby space, student meeting areas, a gallery space and public restrooms.
Using an Englert .050 gauge aluminum as an exterior element allowed the architects to create a timeless design that was both aesthetic and durable…which is perfect for an institutional setting where buildings will live for long periods of time. The true design genius, however, came in bringing that same exterior metal into the interior spaces. It is used along the building's central spine and in the gap space between the addition's three large-volume spaces. The metal has a custom pewter metallic finish and was fashioned into harlequin diamond pattern shingles. CHU Contracting of Chantilly, Virginia fabricated and installed all of the exterior and interior wall surfaces.
While metal can be cold and sterile, the sunlight-splashed metallic walls along the interior spine of the building provide warmth and contributes to creating an inviting environment in the public reception area, in student activity gathering spaces and in the private dance gallery adjacent to the dance studios.