Commercial Design: Colorado marble satisfies demands of high-end client

April 3, 2006
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The flooring throughout the 85,000-square-foot office space of Thelen Reid & Priest in Washington, DC, is comprised of Valley Gold Vein marble, which was quarried at Polycor's Colorado Yule site in Marble, CO.


Colorado Yule marble was a key component in creating a chic contemporary look for the law office of Thelen Reid & Priest in Washington, DC. “The direction from the client was to design a clean, light and modern space that would represent a new image in the Washington market,” said Project Designer Mariela Buendia-Corrochano of Gensler Architecture, Design & Planning Worldwide. “Choosing a light-colored stone was always part of the overall finish selection concept.”

Nearly 8,000 square feet of the material - with a honed finish - was supplied in various tile sizes, including 9 x 30 x ¾, 15 x 6 x ¾, 15 x 9 x 3/8, 18 x 9 x 3/8, 18 x 9 ¼ x 3/8, 30 x 9 x ½ and 15 x 6 x 3/8 inches.

While the Gensler design team - also including Christopher Murray, principal; Marie Gomez, Project Architect; and Arthur Ott, manager - had initially specified a white marble from Greece, time constraints pushed them to search for an alternative material. “Aesthetic appearance and availability were the deciding factors on selecting the Colorado Yule stone,” explained Buendia-Corrochano, adding that her client played an important role in making the final decision. “Thelen Reid & Priest's partners Andrew Ness and Michael Jaffe as well as Gayla Ferimer, office administrator, were involved through the design and finish selection process.”

The marble was quarried from Colorado Yule's Valley Gold Vein site in Marble, CO, which is owned and operated by Polycor Inc. of Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Nearly 8,000 square feet of the material - with a honed finish - was supplied in various tile sizes, including 9 x 30 x ¾, 15 x 6 x ¾, 15 x 9 x 3/8, 18 x 9 x 3/8, 18 x 9 ¼ x 3/8, 30 x 9 x ½ and 15 x 6 x 3/8 inches. The tiles, which were cut at Polycor's processing plant in Saint-Sebastien, Quebec, Canada, were used for flooring and stairs throughout the 85,000-square-foot space.

“Several tile sizes were specified in different thicknesses for thick- and thin-setting applications, depending on the location of the stone,” said the designer. “The general pattern was random, but followed specific alignments with the partitions and ceilings. A thick-set application was used in locations where the building provided recessed slab. The remainder used thin-set application in borders and on the fifth floor, which was added later. Because the building was under design and construction while Gensler was designing Thelen's space, we were able to make building modifications such as recessing the structural slab on the sixth, seventh and eighth floors.”



The design team from Gensler developed the floor pattern, and the installer provided the shop drawings. “Every piece was cut to fit the pattern,” said Manuel Seara, president of Lorton Contracting. “This was not a normal tile job.”

Installing the marble

According to Buendia-Corrochano, one of the most challenging aspects of the project was obtaining the right balance of variation in the marble. The design team relied on the expertise of Lorton Contracting of Springfield, VA, to install the stone.

Manuel Seara, president of Lorton Contracting, said that the selection process took about three weeks. “There was a deadline to get the job done,” he said. “The most challenging part [of the project] was to get the stone in on time.”

Seara explained that the design team from Gensler developed the floor pattern, and his company provided the shop drawings. “Every piece was cut to fit the pattern,” he said. “This was not a normal tile job.”

Additionally, the installation crew was instructed to dry lay every piece of stone before it was permanently set. “Every area had to be dry laid to get approval before the installation,” said Seara. “People want it more and more these days. It is better because they sign off on the dry lay portion, and there is no going back saying, 'We don't like this.' It is better for everyone. It gives the architect better perspective, and there are no surprises for us.”

According to Seara, there were many alignment issues because of all the custom-sized pieces. “It is not as simple as it appears at first glance,” he said. The design team did spend several hours on the jobsite supervising the installation of the stone, and clarifying alignments and patterns.

In total, it took two stonemasons about two months to install the marble floor. The entire project, which was started in February 2005, was completed by June of that same year.



“The direction from the client was to design a clean, light and modern space that would represent a new image in the Washington market,” said Project Designer Mariela Buendia-Corrochano of Gensler. “Choosing a light-colored stone was always part of the overall finish selection concept.”

Meeting client expectations

While the client did express a little concern about maintenance issues, they were eventually put at ease. “They were willing to participate in a regular cleaning program in order to achieve the desired look and feel,” said Buendia-Corrochano. “During construction, the general contractor applied the Gensler-specified sealer to protect the stone from staining.”

Once the project was completed, the employees at Thelen Reid & Priest were very pleased with the results. “Staff rave about how the space has really changed the way they do business,” said the designer. “Secretaries love the functionality of the space and the amount of storage provided. Attorneys appreciate the quality of natural and artificial light in the space. The firm representatives are thrilled with the image the new space portrays to the marketplace. Moreover, at the opening party, one of the former employees commented that she would entertain returning to work for Thelen just because of the design of the new space.”




It took approximately two months for the stonework to be installed.

Thelen Reid & Priest
Law Office
Washington, DC

Architect: Gensler Architecture, Design & Planning Worldwide, Washington, DC

General Contractor: Clark Construction, Bethesda, MD

Stone Installer: Lorton Contracting, Springfield, VA

Stone Quarrier/Fabricator: Polycor Inc., Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

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