In designing the Wyeth Pharmaceutical Headquarters in Collegeville, PA, the staff at Kling Architects wanted to create a unique way of making use of stone in their plans for the building complex. In the end, that goal was met with the innovative use of black granite.

“Wyeth Collegeville is a very contemporary building, so we tried to use stone in new and exciting ways that fit with the style of the architecture,” said Adam Glaser, project designer with Kling Architects. “Collegeville is also a very large and expansive building which made us very conscious of scale since there are literally thousands of square feet of stone. The main spine alone, paved in Nordic Black from Polycor is nearly a quarter of a mile long.” In all, Polycor, Inc. supplied more than 43,000 square feet of stone.

The 720,000-square-foot administrative complex represents Phase II of a four-part master plan, also developed by Kling, for the rural 300-acre site. The new buildings are both additions and overlays to the existing facilities, and as such presented special challenges of massing, function and imagery.

The plan for Phase II is an interconnected grid of four 100-foot-wide office bars framing landscaped courtyards. At the end of the first office bar rests the main campus entry: a four-story glazed atrium enclosing a full-height glass and perforated metal ellipse. This ensemble marks the physical center of the campus, and acts as a visual anchor to the aggregated grouping of buildings.

The firm's intent all along was to make this project different from others, especially in its use of stone. “Instead of creating a traditional pattern with several different stones, we chose instead to use one polished stone in a random ashlar pattern,” said Glaser. “The pattern looks and feels very modern, and the mirrored surface softens the scale by drawing reflections of everything -- the adjacent architecture, people and the sky -- into the floor. This makes the stone visually magnetic and ever changing with movement and light.”

The choice of Nordic Black was made after much research in order to find just the right one for the project. “Nordic Black in particular was chosen because of the character inherent in the stone itself,” said Joseph Castner, the Senior Project Architect. “In particular, we liked the veining, which gave the stone a lot of life while being harmonious with the other materials used in the project.”

Glaser agreed: “We loved the subtle, organic patterning of Nordic Black, since it gives visitors a second layer of interest beyond the shape of the pavers and their general reflectivity.”

One of the more interesting outcomes of choosing a polished surface for the dark granites was that the reflection from the mirror-like surface makes the stone in reality appear light in color, according to Castner.

“When you stand in the spine and look straight ahead, the stone is almost white and reminiscent of water,” said Glaser. “If you look straight down from the same viewpoint, the material changes completely to black -- with a very different, muted reflection and its natural veins and pearls in sharp focus.”

The Nordic Black was not the only stone material used on the project. For the main entrance plaza, Canadian Black granite with a flamed and waterjet finish, also from Polycor, became the predominant paver material and garden wall. Stone benches, which were featured in the plaza hardscape, were made of Polycor's polished Cambrian Black granite.

“The flamed and waterjet finishes suited the character of the Cambrian Black and Canadian Black in particular,” said Castner.

Kling also made use of Porto Marble for the tops of credenzas and tables, with a polished finish. Again, the veining and character of the stone was important. “In general, we were looking for darker stones that complemented some of the other materials, which were light in color,” Castner said.

All involved are very pleased with the outcome of the project. In fact, the project has received a number of awards, including a 2004 Award of Recognition from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Glaser is particularly pleased with how the goal of a new and exciting way to use stone was achieved. “Many architectural stone floors have a flat, almost 'graphic' quality to them; you see their patterns like a picture or a piece of stationery viewed from an oblique angle. At Collegeville, the stone is a fluid, living thing -- introducing a depth and complexity that is rarely associated with paving. It is one of the most remarkable surfaces in the building and a constant source of delight to the building's owners, visitors and authors.”