Slate enhances campus architecture

October 10, 2001
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A combination of Brazilian Grey and China Sea Green slates were employed for the flooring in the new Academic Center at the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania.


The intersection at the corridors on each floor features a medallion, which is designed to resemble a compass pattern.
Influenced by the spirit of traditional architecture found on the main campus of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, the Clearfield Academic Center on the school's new branch campus sports a red brick facade with limestone accenting. But although tradition played an important factor in the design of the new building, the architects at IKM Incorporated also wanted to give the new Clearfield campus its own distinct characteristics. As a result, a combination of Chinese and Brazilian slates were used for the interior flooring.

"We were asked by the client to design the first major building of this branch campus," said Project Manager Mike McDonnell, AIA, of the Pittsburgh, PA-based architectural firm, which was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services. "They had a desire for it to function as the 'Old Main.' Out of this tradition, we began the design of this facility. We were paying attention to the spirit of tradition, but wanted to add a contemporary feeling, while keeping those classical notions of Old Main."

While the traditional spirit is expressed with the combination of brick and Indiana limestone at the exterior coping and windowsill, slate flooring plays a more dramatic role in the design of the Academic Center's interior. According to the architect, it was decided at the outset that slate would be employed as the flooring material in the public spaces of the 52,000-square-foot building. "We solicited slate samples from a wide variety of suppliers -- looking at domestic and international slates," said McDonnell. "We made a basic decision about the color palette. Once we narrowed the range, we began to look at availability of sizes and thickness. We also needed a material that would fit into our construction timeline."

"Indiana limestone is used for exterior coping on the screen wall at the front entrance, window sills and other miscellaneous details," said Architect Mike McDonnell, AIA, of IKM Incorporated. "That was really a decision made based on more traditional approaches for coping for screen walls in campus architecture."

Inspired by natural beauty

The architects at IKM chose slate because they were inspired by the material's natural beauty and sense of timelessness, according to McDonnell. "It lent refinement and connection to the land that was essential to the building, which was to be the first on this rural campus," he said. "We were looking for a material that would establish the standards in flooring for public spaces in additional buildings on the branch campus."

A team of reviewers from the university looked at and approved the materials before they were implemented in the design. "Once the final material palette developed, the University President, Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Facilities approved the application of slate and the commitment to the high level of finish that was being designed into the facility," said McDonnell.

The final materials palette included about 300 square feet of China Sea Green slate and approximately 6,000 square feet of Brazilian Grey slate -- both with a cleft finish. The stone was supplied by the West Chester, OH, branch of International Marble & Granite (IMG) and fabricated and installed by Colucci Tile & Marble, Inc. of Pittsburgh, PA. With the exception of the custom-sized pieces for the medallions, the floor tiles were 16 x 16 inches. Additionally, the Brazilian Grey slate was employed for a monumental staircase, which leads to the student lounge -- a grand two-story space accented by a 2-foot slate border on the floor and a slate hearth on the fireplace.

Located at the intersection of the main circulation corridors, are slate medallions that were designed to recall the points of a compass. "There is a prominent cupola and skylight [in the building]," said McDonnell. "We intended to create a large central volume that would open the top two floors to the sky via a large skylight, but because of code requirements were limited in making this literal connection. The compass reference at the first floor, along with a celestial star field theme in the decorative art glass ceiling helped us complete the connection to the sky and heavens above."

The field of both medallions consisted of the black slate and was accented by the China Sea Green. According to Project Manager Joe Herc of Colucci Tile & Marble, Inc., it took four workers approximately six weeks to install all the stonework. For the installation of the floor patterns, the installers followed a diagram drawn by IKM.

After a year and a half of design and construction, the new Academic Center opened for classes on August 28, 2001. "The building exceeds the university's expectations, and satisfies IKM's desire to imprint the building with metaphors that inform and guide the students as they prepare for their futures," said McDonnell.

Credit Box

Academic Center

Clearfield Campus

Lock Haven University

Architect: IKM Incorporated, Pittsburgh, PA

Stone Supplier: International Marble & Granite (IMG), West Chester, OH

Stone Fabricator/Installer: Colucci Tile & Marble, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA

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