Teak Sandstone Creates Innovative Office Design

November 1, 2008
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The Papago Gateway Center, which recently became the first mixed-use wet lab building in Tempe, AZ, utilizes Teak sandstone in innovative ways, serving as landmarks for the building’s visitors and users. The material is supplied by Tab India through its U.S. office, Amsum & Ash Inc.


The Papago Gateway Center recently became the first mixed-use building in Tempe, AZ, providing green laboratory space to private biotech companies. The campus design utilizes two of its exterior walls with Teak sandstone in innovative ways, serving as entrance landmarks for the building’s visitors and tenants. The material was supplied by Tab India through its U.S. office, Amsum & Ash Inc.

On the east and west sides of the structure, building guests and occupants will find the two stone feature walls in a “folding” appearance. “We were able to create an idea of making the stone look like a paper fold,” said Project Architect Luis Huertas, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP of SmithGroup’s Phoenix, AZ, office. “Everybody loves that aesthetic. Those areas are used as entrance landmarks, so people know where they’re going.”

“We were able to create an idea of making the stone look like a paper fold,” said Project Architect Luis Huertas, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP of SmithGroup’s Phoenix, AZ, office. “Everybody loves that aesthetic. Those areas are used as entrance landmarks, so people know where they’re going.”

Teak sandstone was selected not only for its color, which blends well with the desert landscape of the nearby Papago Buttes, but also for its texture. “The client wanted natural stone to get a natural feel and warmth to the building,” Huertas said. “Regional Sedona sandstone had been considered, but the sandstone from India was harder in a thinner layer, which worked best with the technical requirements.”

Pieces of the Teak sandstone, measuring 18 inches high x 4 feet wide and divided by three, are used to form the two exterior feature walls.

Pieces of the Teak sandstone, measuring 18 inches high x 4 feet wide and divided by three, are used to form the two exterior feature walls. “The stone looks like its own entity, and the curtain wall its own -- that was an important detail,” said Huertas.

Teak sandstone is also utilized in three axis points of the five-story parking structure, bringing the project total to approximately 32,000 square feet of exterior stone.

“The stone looks like its own entity, and the curtain wall its own - that was an important detail,” said Huertas.

The Exterior Installation

The stone installation took four and a half months to complete, according to Mark Andrews, Chief Commercial Estimator of Sun Valley Masonry in Phoenix, AZ, which installed the exterior stone for the project.

The stone installation team found the most challenges with the “folded stone” feature walls. “The feature walls were sloped in and away from the building with stone cladding on both sides, which presented difficult access,” said Mark Andrews, Chief Commercial Estimator of Sun Valley Masonry of Phoenix, AZ, which served as the installer for this project. “In addition, there were high and low soffits at these locations.”

The installation team, which included 15 to 20 workers for the stonework, with an additional crew for the other masonry portions, found the most challenges with the “folded stone” feature walls. “The geometry of the building made for a challenging installation,” said Andrews. “The feature walls were sloped in and away from the building with stone cladding on both sides, which presented difficult access. In addition, there were high and low soffits at these locations.”

Andrews explained that the sandstone is anchored to a metal stud framing with stainless steel anchors. “Sun Valley Masonry provided the shop drawings and engineering of the system,” he said.

Teak sandstone is also employed in three axis points of the five-story parking structure, which with the two feature walls totals approximately 32,000 square feet of exterior stone.

Stone in the Interior

Stone also carried into the interior of the building for use in two lobbies. To highlight the elevator area, 1- x 1-foot pieces of a red-colored marble are featured on the wainscoting and floor area surrounding the elevator, while the rest of the floor and wainscoting area of the lobbies are comprised of 4- x 2-foot pieces of white limestone.

Huertas explained that figuring out the framing for the elevator was difficult. “With the way the building segments, all other materials had to be adjusted,” he said. “There is [a significant] difference in angle, which created all different dimensions. Outside it’s 30 degrees, while inside it’s 25.8 degrees. We kept the stone flat, and everything shifted to meet the stone.”

Additionally, stone was carried into the interior of the building for use in two lobbies with 1- x 1-foot pieces of a red-colored marble on the wainscoting and floor area surrounding the elevator, while the rest of the floor and wainscoting area of the lobbies are comprised of 4- x 2-foot pieces of white limestone. Photos Courtesy of SmithGroup

Design plans for the Papago Gateway Center, which totals 267,000 ground square feet of space, began in the early summer of 2005. Ground then broke in October 2006, with the facility being completed in April 2008.

Project Recognitions

Since its completion, the Papago Gateway Center has been pre-certified for Silver LEED-CS Certification, for the project’s innovation and sustainable design. “The developer [and client], Lee Chesnut from Chesnut Properties, knows the industry and how buildings operate and work,” said Huertas. “Everything he does is ‘buildings that matter.’ “

In addition to the east and west stone clad walls, the north and south elevations of the Papago Gateway Center are completely glazed, allowing for natural light in the interior spaces. The southern edge consists of over 2,000 operable aluminum louvers that will open and close depending on the sun’s movement.

If received, the project will be the first building in Arizona to achieve this designation. In addition, it is currently on track for Gold certification.              

Sidebar: Papago Gateway Cente

Tempe, AZ

Architect: SmithGroup, Phoenix, AZ

Stone Supplier: Tab India through its U.S. office, Amsum & Ash Inc. (Teak sandstone)

Stone Installer: Sun Valley Masonry, Phoenix, AZ

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