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As a multi-natural organization with real estate holdings in more than 50 countries and jurisdictions, American International Group, Inc. (AIG) maintains its image through sleek commercial building designs worldwide. When it came time to select material for the exterior of its new high-rise in the Atlanta Station development in Atlanta, GA, the company chose Silver Pearl granite, which was quarried by Tab India Inc. at its site in Andhra Pradesh, India, and imported by ASI Stone Imports, Inc. of Chelsea, AL. The stone not only provided the strength and durability that was required for the commercial structure, but it also gave the 271 17th Street building a contemporary corporate image along the Atlanta skyline.
“AIG is a global real estate development company,” said Project Architect Micah Rosen of tvsdesign in Atlanta. “They had a high-end desire for this project. They have a consistent portfolio in terms of quality of brand of office real estate holdings - contemporary, modern sleek designs.”
The building in Atlanta was designed to fit the organization’s global portfolio. “It appealed to us because we are interested in buildings with a modern design, but also that have a distinctive skyline look to them,” said Rosen. “This building gets a lot of visibility from the highways nearby. It’s very prominent. They were looking for a signature office tower that is consistent with AIG-developed buildings.
“As we developed our design concept - trying to break down the mass of the building into more elegant proportions - we started looking at vertical and horizontal relationships in a way that it was dynamic, but also classic,” Rosen went on to explain. “We wanted something that was never trendy and wouldn’t go out of style. We took inspiration from much older buildings from the 1920s and 1930s that had an architectural approach of glass, stone and aluminum. We got a building that is very 21st century, but highly influenced by early 20th century modernism.”
Choosing Silver PearlAn extensive selection process took place before the decision was finalized to use Silver Pearl for the office tower’s exterior facade, according to the architect. “We looked at about 30 different stone samples from all manufacturers in Asia, South America, etc.,” he said. “Ultimately, this was the product that gave us a double punch. There were a lot of great materials that looked wonderful when standing close or materials that were consistent at a distance, but up close, they didn’t give you anything memorable. The Silver Pearl really hit the sweet spot for us quite nicely.”
Rosen further explained that the design team liked the consistency of the stone. “What we really liked about it is that it has good consistency, but isn’t so consistent that it looks machine made or monolithic,” he said. “This building is in the Atlantic Station development, which gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. We needed a material that looks good from a distance and keeps the richness and darkness of the material. Up close, it is a very handsome stone. We recognized that there is a perfect balance of consistency from a distance and a textile look that we loved.”
In addition to the aesthetic characteristics of the Silver Pearl granite, the stone’s physical traits also had to be taken into consideration. “We were doing high-rise construction, so we also needed a material that has the strength to resist wind-loads,” said Rosen. “Tab India did testing specifically for this project. Once we arrived at the material we wanted, they worked with us to make sure that it was appropriate for the use we had in mind.”
According to the architect, a construction executive and design executive represented AIG Global Real Estate during the selection process. “We had to make ourselves happy first before we could try to sell it to AIG and keep them happy about the final look,” said Rosen. “Also, we had to make sure that we chose materials that we could get quickly and ones that would work with other assemblies in the construction process.”
In total, the selection took roughly four to six weeks, according to Rosen. “ASI delivered about four to fives samples a week. It was a very thorough process,” he said. “It was time well spent.”
Traveling to the quarryThe architect, along with the representatives from AIG Global Real Estate, Brasfield & Gorrie and ASI Stone Imports, traveled to India to visit Tab India’s quarry site and stone-processing facility. “We were able to get out there and take a look at the material,” said Rosen. “We selected the blocks in the quarry and looked at the slabs in the plant. We actually took some sacrificial slabs and took a pen to them to indicate what we needed culled out.”
Because of the trip and Tab India’s attention to quality and detail, the material arrived on the jobsite as expected. “It was an interesting process to go to a quarry,” said Rosen. “We were impressed with Tab India’s quarry and factory. They were one of many suppliers that really wanted to give the first-class effort that AIG and their lead tenants were looking for.”
Additionally, the project’s success can be attributed to quality-control measures taken by ASI Stone Imports. “We did the quality control for the shipments,” said Jim DeLoach of ASI Stone Imports. “We have inspectors in India, because we work there all the time. We do a lot of government embassies.”
DeLoach explained that the company arranged the freight and brought the stone to the jobsite. “We stayed involved as a project manager and importer,” he said. “Everything went smooth. Everybody was happy in the end. It was done on time.”
Fabricating the stone piecesTab India supplied a total of 100,000 square feet of Silver Pearl granite for use on the exterior of 271 17th Street. According to Amit Gupta, who owns Tab India with his brother Sumit Gupta and runs the company’s U.S. branch, Amsum & Ash in Minneapolis, MN, it took eight months to quarry and fabricate the stone for this project. On average, pieces measured 5 x 2 feet with a thickness of 2.5 cm.
Gupta explained that there were some challenges in fabricating the pieces, due to the natural variations found in the Silver Pearl granite. “Silver Pearl comes with variations - white spots and other differences,” he said. “We had to really select quite a bit of material to have continuity on the walls. With this size of panels, a lot of selection was done. The entire factory floor got covered with these panels everywhere. We were mostly color matching. Otherwise, the fabrication was relatively simple.”
The Silver Pearl granite pieces were glazed into a curtain wall system that also consisted of glass and aluminum. “There was factory-level control on how the stone was put into the system,” explained the architect. “Tab India worked with the curtain wall manufacturer to make sure it was just right and that the stone could be inserted.”
According to Rosen, the biggest challenge with the custom system was the reveals - dealing with the vertical and horizontal pieces. “Every third vertical is a little brighter,” he said. “There are U-shaped aluminum extrusions. Each stone panel looks individually mounted on this system. It is a very three-dimensional system.”
Complementing the Silver Pearl granite is Silver Galaxy granite, which was employed for the base of the office tower. The stone pieces, which were also quarried and fabricated by Tab India Inc. and imported and installed by Crystal Marble Co. of Atlanta, were handset and mechanically fastened with stainless steel anchors, according to Clifford Brannon of Crystal Marble Co.
A â€œClass Aâ€ interiorWhile it was important to create a signature look for the exterior of the building, the interior also had to be top grade. “In the Atlanta market, it is pretty standard to have a stone floor in a ‘Class A’ building, and it is not unusual to use some stone on the wall,” said Rosen. “This building is at the top end of what is in the market right now - even in a ‘Class A’ market.”
The architect explained that tvsdesign was responsible for the office tower’s main lobby as well as a prototype for a typical floor level lobby for floors that had multiple tenants. “Again, the requirement for AIG was the ‘consistency of portfolio’ approach,” he said. “They really took it to a high level. It was nice working with someone looking at investment-grade property.”
The entire stone palette employed for the interior design was supplied and installed by Crystal Marble Co. The floor is comprised of 30- x 48-inch Statuary White marble tiles from Italy with 16-inch-wide accent pieces of White Thassos marble from Greece. A little more than 5,800 square feet of Statuary White was utilized, while just over 2,600 square feet of White Thassos was incorporated into the interior design.
“The tones are white on white,” said Rosen. “We took the floor and made it streamline modern and carried that whole idea to the interior of the building. The ceiling has white coves with a golden-toned wall covering. There is a very strong movement across the lobby.”
For the lobby walls, Black Galaxy granite from China was chosen, while 4- x 6-foot slabs of White Thassos marble were employed for the walls in the elevator lobbies. “The Black Galaxy is a deep black, and the White Thassos is extremely clear,” said the architect. “It gives thickness and depth.” In total, 1,600 square feet of Black Galaxy was used.
Further enhancing the overall glamour of the lobby are stainless steel and bronze details. Behind the security desk, an assembly of Black Galaxy and woven metal create a focal point. “There is a continuous theme throughout the project,” said Rosen. “We look to create visual interest through contrasting colors and materials. We started very stark with black and white, and then introduced bronze and gold. It pulled it together in a way that felt warm. We were able to generate additional warmth by adding the limestone.”
In total, it took Crystal Marble Co. four months with a crew of eight workers to complete the installation of the interior stonework as well as the exterior stone base. “The most challenging part was procuring the stone from all four factories,” said Brannon. “The schedule was good, and tvsdesign is always great to work with.”
tvsdesign and AIG Global Real Estate began the concept design for the new 271 17th Street office tower in the summer of 2006, and the building opened in the spring of 2009. “We really got into the design in earnest in the fall of 2006, and it was a fast-tracked project,” said Rosen, adding that the building is targeting LEED Gold certification.
217 17th Street office toweAtlanta, GA
Owner: AIG Global Real Estate, New York, NY
Architect: tvsdesign, Atlanta, GA
General Contractor: Brasfield & Gorrie, Atlanta, GA
Stone Quarrier/Fabricator: Tab India Inc., Jaipur, India (Silver Pearl and Silver Galaxy granite)
Stone Importer: ASI Stone Imports, Inc., Chelsea, AL (Silver Pearl granite)
Logistics: Amsum & Ash, Minneapolis, MN (Silver Pearl granite)
Stone Importer/Installer: Crystal Marble Co., Atlanta, GA (Silver Galaxy granite and all interior stonework)
Curtain Wall Manufacturer: Jamco, Marietta, GA