Slate specification for a sensual skin

Slate specification for a sensual skin

September 2019

At One Museum Place, Atlanta, the architect specified a time-tested cladding material that, as well as offering optimal weather resistance, is also durable, fireproof, immune to insect attack, and achingly beautiful: natural slate.  TSJ reports.

One Museum Place is a collection of 44 custom residences located at one of Atlanta’s top addresses, 1301 Peachtree Street.  Located directly across from the High Museum of Art, this 215,000 sq. foot development includes two five-story buildings.
Developer John Wieland teamed with Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and General Contractor, Brasfield & Gorrie, to realise this unusual project.

One Museum Place is a high end project.  For instance, each unit on the top floor has a private rooftop terrace.  State-of-the-art outdoor kitchens are located on open-sided verandahs, adjacent to the main living levels.

Most One Museum Place units also have a private lift that opens directly into the apartments’’ foyers.  Each unit also has a private garage inside the building’s secured parking space.

Designed to be compatible in scale and texture with neighbouring properties along the east side of Peachtree Street, One Museum Place also complements, in scale and attitude, the High Museum on the west side.

Promoted as Midtown Atlanta’s Finest Address, One Museum Place has attracted plaudits for its iconic design; notably the eye-catching exterior cladding.  The exterior façade is clad in a combination of materials, with natural slate being the most prominent.

It was specified by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects; one of the first American architectural firms to embrace the usage of rainscreens.  The firm specified its first rainscreen system back in 1989 at a time when few appreciated the wide range of benefits offered by these systems.

In general terms, a rainscreen is an exterior wall detail where the cladding stands proud of the moisture-resistant surface, allowing for drainage and evaporation. Generally placed on the outside of larger, commercial buildings, the cladding panels can be made from different materials such as porcelain tiles, stone composites, aluminium, zinc, copper, and stainless steel.

In the case of One Museum Place, the architect specified a material that, in their estimation, was to be even better; natural slate.  As well as offering superb durability and weather resistance, slate has proven over and over again to be one of the most long-lasting natural building materials.

Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects’ first usage of slate shingles in a vertical rainscreen application was at the Ida Williams Buckhead Branch Library, Atlanta, completed in 1989.  Since then, the firm has incorporated slate as a cladding material on a range of projects.

According to the architect: “For One Museum Place, the combination of three cladding materials required three trades to coordinate methods, material interfaces, material terminations, etc. Three different slate patterns were used on the project in response to building geometry and desired textures.”

The architects consulted with Vermont Slate during material selection and, later on, during value engineering to discuss colour options, cost, and availability. “The architect specified slate roofing in the past, and knew about the attributes of this material,” says Ken Rule, CEO of Vermont Slate Company.

His company is the USA distributor of CupaClad, a rainscreen system developed by the Cupa Group.  Based in Spain, Cupa Pizarras Slate Company is a world leader in natural slate roofing and cladding.  With 16 quarries in Spain, and 22 processing plants equipped with the latest technology, Cupa Pizarras Slate and its USA partner, Vermont Slate Company, has begun to focus on cladding projects; in particular, commercial buildings that need a high quality rainscreen.

“We received drawings from the architect regarding how they wanted to install the rain-screen at One Museum Place,” explains Rule. 

“They knew us from providing slate roofing in the past, and were very exacting as to what they were detailing a ‘breathable, waterproof and drainable’ rainscreen.  The entire process was efficient, very professionally handled.  It was great to work with such open-minded, forward-thinking people.”

Natural slate used as cladding, once installed, requires zero maintenance.  “A century after being installed,” claims Rule, “it will continue to perform and maintain its original look.”

“For this rainscreen project,” he continues, “each piece of CupaClad slate was installed to wood battens using two screws.  The design by the architect included multiple sizes of slate units, ranging from 12 by 10in to 12 by 6in.  Some of the pieces had to be custom cut.  All of this resulted in not only a highly efficient rain-screen cladding project, but from a visual standpoint, it resulted in a unique overall surfacing design.”

The completed rainscreen system helps the project’s walls manage moisture.  The gap between the cladding and building helps to dry the inside vertical wall, which may accumulate a great deal of moisture, particularly during cold weather.  Additionally, rainscreens aid in keeping the cladding dry, when it becomes soaked by rain or intense humidity.  And all this  using a time-tested, 100% natural material.

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