Metal Meets Medical Science
Beck’s Designers Tap McNichols Designer Metals Collection to Help Evoke
Images of Medical Science on the Exterior of CAMLS
To the medical world, the new Center for Advanced Medical Learning and
Simulation (CAMLS), commonly called "Camels", is a state-of-the-art facility
for learning. Affiliated with Tampa’s University of South Florida, it is a
place where robotic surgery, advanced trauma life support, neonatal
resuscitation and other medical techniques are simulated and integrated with
education and research to push advances in health care into practice.
To the design/build community, the stunning and intelligent design of CAMLS
begins with its exterior use of perforated metal and the images it evokes
relating to medical science. The Beck Group, architect and construction
manager, chose perforated metal panels to reduce solar heat gain and also
evoke the role the building plays in medical science. They envisioned an
exterior that would reflect the idea of DNA, the very essence of human life
and medical science.
Perforated aluminum panels from McNICHOLS® Designer Metals collection was
selected to articulate the vision. “The material had the artistic traits to
convey the idea of health science, and the qualities of light diffusion that
reduces solar heat gain, especially on the building’s western exposure,”
said Joe Harrington, Beck project manager. Inspired by to a photo of a DNA
test strip, the design team envisioned this aluminum product, with its
various patterns of holes, as the perfect metaphor. “We imagined it as
complementary to the DNA image, which we could apply in several ways
throughout the building,” Harrington said. “The idea was to tie in the
medical theme in relationship to the human body.”
They further reasoned that if the perforated metal on the exterior could
represent the human skin, with variable panel sizes and hole patterns
suggesting DNA, the supporting metal frame underneath could easily signify
the human skeleton. Taking the medical metaphor further, the Beck team
applied punched wood laminate panels to line the lobby wall, another
reference to genetics.
The west facade of CAMLS is designed with a seven-degree lean creating an
architectural feature that also adds square footage to the floor above. The
angle produced another design opportunity for adding an overlay of metal
skin that measures 30- by 135-feet and is backlit. "We wanted the building
to glow at night," said Harrington.
With the help of Philips and its Color Kinetics product line, LED lights
were installed into 6-inch aluminum channels above and below the bend. The
light, diffused through the perforation in the metal, allows the building to
be illuminated efficiently with a wash of color.
The .125 gauge McNICHOLS perforated metal, installed as patchwork of varying
sizes of panels and three different hold patterns, conjures images of pores
in the skin. The panels are arranged in three different hole paterns from 2
to 4 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long featuring hole patterns that vary from
¾-inch round on a one-inch staggered design to 3/16th-round on 5/16th-inch
The perforated metal skin covers 4,300 square feet of CAMLS’ exterior. While
the panels wrap the south and east-facing corner of the building, it is the
west side, with its LED lighting and signature “bend” that grabs the eye.
Plus, the lighting feature solved a building permit requirement. Because the
west facade overhangs the City of Tampa’s scenic downtown pedestrian
walkway, development guidelines require the incorporation of a public art
Like the Tampa Museum of Art a few blocks away, which is entirely wrapped in
perforated metal McNICHOLS Design Metals collection, CAMLS’ metal skin
feature is a virtual canvas for illuminated art on which commissioned light
artists can create their own graphic designs.
“Budget considerations played an equal part in the design approach,” said
Harrington. “We knew we wanted to create something that was cost efficient.
We were able to accomplish this with the perforated material.” In addition,
CAMLS was certified as a LEED®-NC v2009 Silver building. Sustainable
materials were selected from local, renewable, recycled or recyclable
sources. The perforated metal panels by McNICHOLS are manufactured in Tampa
helping attain the LEED rating.
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