In 2000, school officials decided that the student union at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., which was originally constructed in 1965, could use a facelift. Items high on the renovation to-do list included upgrading the union’s theater stage house and building a new orchestra shell. Four years later, officials opted for a comprehensive overhaul of the entire building. Thanks to a creative use of metal, the architects and their design team were able to update the theater’s look and earn an honorable mention in the Interiors category of the 2011 Metalmag Architectural Awards.
A highlight of the newly enhanced theater is the lobby. The space has been enlarged and made more welcoming. Visitors to the theater are greeted by a dramatic metal fabric ceiling system, which drapes between lighting fixtures.
“We did some research, and really liked the idea of using metal fabric,” says Keith Steger, principal of HMS Architects. “After looking at a number of sources of the material, we chose to include [metal mesh] in the specifications because their product aesthetically worked well and met our technical requirements.”
The architectural mesh ceiling brightens up the space, which previously had been dark and dreary, and helps to give the lobby a decidedly modern appearance. The light, airy metal fabric also imparts the lobby with a comforting, rather than oppressive, atmosphere. In addition, the fabric deftly covers unsightly infrastructure like pipes, wiring, and ductwork, hiding them from the view of patrons.