Lancaster County Convention Center
Big building, small space
Established in 1718, Lancaster is the oldest inland city in the United States. Its town square can be traced back to 1730 when James Hamilton laid the city out in a traditional grid. Structures with lasting, historical value have been fixtures on the square for years. The central area has always been among the most densely developed parts of the city.
Certainly, constructing an intricate project, Lancaster County Convention Center, that would bring new architecture to an established, compact downtown would require imagination and thoughtful planning. Knowing that precast could solve many of the potential issues, architectural firm Cooper Carry engaged High Concrete Group LLC from the earliest planning stages.
The biggest obstacle consisted of working around the existing structures, many of which would be integrated into the new complex. It severely limited the size of the construction site. Because precast is manufactured off-site and delivered to the job as needed, it was preferable over field-built options that would have required significantly more space.
“Staging was a big issue,” explains Kevin Iddings, general manager of Midwest operations for High Concrete Group. “We developed a regimented schedule that allowed us to ship the precast pieces one at a time as they were needed. It helped avoid a backlog of materials in the field.”
In addition, High worked with the architect to simplify the job as much as possible, eliminating unnecessary pieces and identifying ways to reuse molds, thereby minimizing costs.
Nestling an 18-story hotel and conference center into the historic streetscape of downtown Lancaster wouldn’t be easy, but architect Lane Chapman said she was determined to be respectful of the existing architecture while incorporating the modern amenities expected of a high-end facility.
“The goal was to minimize negative impact on the streetscape,” says Chapman. The impressive façade of the landmark C. Emlan Urban-designed Watt & Shand Department Store was preserved and restored as the new face of the hotel. Blending in with the 1898 limestone façade was paramount. The precast concrete was finished with a buff sandblast finish to complement limestone, and detailed pieces above the windows and doorways throughout the new structure echo its ornate Beaux Arts carvings.
Additionally, the adjacent Federal-style Montgomery House, designed by the architect Stephen Hills, who also designed the first Pennsylvania State Capitol building, as well as the homes of abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens and of African-American landowner Lydia Hamilton Smith were incorporated into the convention center complex.Because precast concrete is manufactured in a controlled factory environment, the wall panels achieved a level of uniformity unmatched by poured-in-place construction. This includes consistent door and window openings, which eliminated the need for costly fieldwork to correct gaps and irregularities.
TQL Ivy Pointe Office
The TQL Ivy Pointe Office building is predominately thin brick-clad with light sandblasted buff-colored precast details framing the spandrels. The precast provides a face-sealed curtainwall that provides effective moisture control that typical rain screen construction cannot. The thin brick is finished with a rake joint. Additional precast details include a 2-1/2’ projection below the parapet to lend a dramatic shadowline. The parapets themselves are at a height of 42” over the roofline to allow maintenance and other personnel to work on the roof without tying off.
The design made repeated use of a few stacked panel designs, allowing maximum economy. L-shaped thin bricks wrapped around window returns as would a full depth brick course. Formliner created a stone look formliner to the columns at the main entrance to add to the feeling of solidity. Reveals add drama and break up the mass to create a human scale.
Villanova Performing Arts Center
When planning to construct a new performing arts building, Villanova University weighed the many options for construction materials. As part of the University’s project to transform a previously underutilized parking lot into a multi-use area, including student housing, retail, and dining, the performing arts center acted as the crown jewel of the development. Through this development project, the University intended to provide the local metropolitan community an opportunity to experience new forms of art and culture, while also using the facility as a hands-on learning experience for theatre students. To achieve this vision, the structure needed to house a full-size theater, along with studios and classrooms, and provide adequate acoustic isolation between the spaces. Villanova is known for its Gothic-style architecture across campus, so the new design also had to complement the aged architectural style of its surroundings. Creating precast panels with plant-installed stone could meet the aesthetic and functional needs of the university with lower costs and construction time than a traditional stone façade.