For the design of an atrium, which adjoined two corporate structures located outside of Philadelphia, the architects used several varieties of Indian stone to create a functional space that reflected the natural environment.<
Straying from typical corporate design, the architectural team for an office complex located in the suburbs of Philadelphia employed several varieties of Indian stone to create an outdoor environment for an atrium, which connected two buildings. And to further enhance the look of the space, the architects opted to use a honed finish on the slate, limestone and sandstone for a more naturalistic feel.

"In designing the building, the site was not quite large enough to accommodate two buildings," said Greg Szary, AIA, of Cathers & Associates, Inc. in Malvern, PA. "We had to join them. We needed something interesting. We didn't want a dark interior space."

To solve this dilemma, the team at Cathers & Associates decided to create a courtyard to attach the two structures. "We wanted to make it feel like an outdoor area," said Interiors Director Judy Channick, also of Cathers & Associates, explaining that their first thought was to create a garden with a meandering trail formed by pieces of limestone. "We started to head down that path, [but] a prospective tenant came and wanted to use it as a meeting room and overflow [area] for lunch. It had to be more functional."

The architects worked closely with the owner and tenant of the 133,000-square-foot office building to perfect the design. They also listened to the advice of Michael Klinges of Mohawk Tile & Marble, which was the local supplier. "Mike from Mohawk said, 'What about a honed slate?' " said Channick. "We finally said that this is really interesting. We wanted it to feel not just like a place with skylights. We wanted to truly create an outdoor feeling - going to a granite or marble just wasn't right."

Primarily, the assortment of Indian stone was employed as 16- x 16- x 1/2-inch tiles for the floor and walls of the 7,000-square-foot atrium. In total, 3,800 square feet of gauged Autumn natural cleft slate, 700 square feet of gauged Kota Blue honed limestone and 400 square feet of gauged Kota Brown honed limestone was used, according to Klinges. In addition to the tiles, customized pieces were fabricated for a compass rose, which highlights the floor design.

"We tried to have a contemporary twist on the compass rose," said Architect David Schoenhard of Cathers & Associates. "It was a great opportunity to bring a splash of color into the floor. It was a nice complement to the solid tiles."

According to Klinges, the compass was 16 feet in diameter. "The slab was recessed in that area to handle the 3/4-inch slab," he said. "Everything else was a 1/2 inch." In addition to Kota Blue and Kota Brown limestone, Morning Glory sandstone and Sunflower honed limestone also comprised the compass rose.

As far as the stonework went, the compass rose required the most attention. "It took the longest time period to get those [pieces] all done," said Klinges. "The spikes were so thin that some of the pieces broke [when they were being fabricated.]"

Schoenhard, who oversaw the work on the compass rose, agreed with the supplier. "[The pieces were] very tricky to cut," he said. "It was quite a feat." But once the pieces were fabricated, the installation went smoothly, according to the architect.

In the end, all of the stone was cut in about three weeks. "It got done pretty quickly," said Klinges. The entire project was completed in approximately one year.

"[The client was] very happy," said Channick, the designer. "It functions very well for the tenant that moved in. They use it on a daily basis and have had several special functions there."

About the project:

Corporate Office Building: Malvern, PA
Owner: Liberty Property Trust
Architect: Cathers & Associates, Inc., Malvern, PA
Stone Supplier: Southland Stone USA Inc., North Hollywood, CA
Stone Distributor: Mohawk Marble & Tile, King of Prussia, PA
General Contractor: L.F. Driscoll Co.
Stone Fabricator: Renaissance Marble, Blackwood, NJ
Stone Installer: Holzhauer Tile Co., Glenside, PA