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A custom-perforated screen balances lighting and privacy in a three-story New York office space.
Ceilings are not just for the ceiling anymore. “With architecture becoming more organic in shape, we are becoming the architecture, not just a ceiling or wall,” said Nancy Mercolino, the president of architectural ceiling, wall, and enclosure manufacturer Ceilings Plus. This fall, the company completed a 33-foot-tall painted aluminum feature wall at the Manhattan offices of a global investment management firm. Designed by New York-based a+i design corp, the project was a consolidation of the firm’s offices in the city, adding three floors to the company’s existing three-story office space in a Midtown building.
With the desire to screen conference rooms from the central reception area while still allowing light transmittance, a+i based the screen’s design on a moire pattern that they translated into three perforation sizes. “The pattern a sweeping curve that has some regularity,” said Phil Ward, one of a+i’s project designers. “It has a little movement to it, but it was still fairly easy to repeat.” The screen as a whole blurs the normal transition between wall and ceiling. On the ninth, topmost, floor, it “unites the conference suite in one move,” said Ward.
The architects worked with Ceilings Plus to achieve as much transparency with custom perforations as possible while making sure the .063-inch-thick aluminum panels were strong enough to install with minimal structural supports. Folds in the panels are more severe on the top floor and ceiling, but their projection over the staircase had to be less than 4 inches to meet code requirements.
Ceilings Plus used CNC turret presses, which can make up to 7,000 perforations per minute with some patterns, to perforate the panels. The machines worked at a slightly slower pace to create a+i’s custom pattern because of the size and variety of hole shapes. With each shape, the turret press automatically switches dies. Automated brake forming equipment folded the panels and their edge returns.
Lighting is integrated into a structural system of custom welded steel channels, through which cables power LED strips on the vertical and horizontal sections of the wall. While the aluminum panels don’t provide acoustic insulation on their own, noise transmittance was not a concern for the double-glazed conference spaces behind the feature wall. A 2-inch fiberglass liner adhered to the structure above the perforated ceiling absorbs sound.
With the same machining equipment, Ceilings Plus has also been able to create new micro-perforation designs, which have holes that are nearly invisible from the floor but still allow acoustic insulation and ventilation. Even fire sprinklers can be integrated into the system.