Acoustical panels are a basic necessity in many architectural applications, but St. Louis-based G&S Acoustics has elevated the simple panel to an art form, using cutting edge technology and design creativity. The manufacturer of specialty acoustical wall and ceiling products used two of its newest applications, Acousti-Images and Custom Shaped Panels, in a project at Jackson High School in Jackson, Missouri. With style and functionality, G&S addressed the school’s need for acoustical control by creating custom panels that take down noise level and pump up school spirit.
The project, designed by Kansas City based Warner Nease Bost Architects, is a new 100,000 square foot transitional space which connects two existing buildings. The space encompasses the school’s multipurpose common area and cafeteria—two areas which are magnets for both students and sound. Because of the acoustic challenges, the architects turned to G&S for sound control options, never expecting to receive a design idea as well.
“We’d just finished up several projects using a new technology, Acousti-Image, which uses ‘dye sublimation printing,’ or in simpler terms, digital printing onto fabric,” says Brian Shuh, sales representative of G&S Acoustics. “We showed the architects images from the Missouri Botanical Garden, where we’d recently imaged flowers onto hanging baffles. Soon the idea of using year-book style photos for the panels emerged, and that’s when the entire school got involved in the customization of the new space,” says Shuh.
The faculty at Jackson High School quickly got on board with the idea of printing student photography onto the panels. The staff spearheaded a school-wide call for photos. Teachers, clubs and parents were asked to submit “timeless photos” that captured the heart of Jackson’s mission statement and school anthem: “With our students and our athletes/ And our glee clubs too/ We unite to laude thee ever/ Pledge our vows anew!”
The school received more than 300 submissions, 40 of which were selected to tell the story of the Jackson High School experience. The photos capture “universal” school activities like graduation, sporting events, and band practice but also embody larger themes of excellence, dignity and loyalty. Architect Elizabeth Oeding at Warner Nease Bost worked with teachers as they decided on the finalists. “We were glad we weren’t doing this in the sixties, or it might have been harder to find photos,” she laughs. “It was difficult to choose which photos to use, but we were somewhat limited by high resolution requirements.” To create the images, a 150 dpi file at full size was required. The images were used on hanging baffles.
According to Jackson High School Principal Vince Powell, “the kids love it, when you walk in the doors, you know you are at Jackson High. It personalized our new spaces in a way we never imagined.” Powell says. He was surprised at the quality of the images. “Even 30 feet above your head, they are amazingly clear and crisp.” Some of the students who are shown in the images wondered if they would be “replaced” after they graduated. “We told them the images will still be there when their kids come to school—they thought that was pretty cool!”
The architectural team also liked the idea of custom shaped panels as another way to capture the school ambiance and color scheme. Black and red –the official school colors- were used to create the school logo and other graphic elements. “G&S helped us compute the amount of acoustical coverage needed in the space,” says Oeding. With that information, the architects were free to design the space with custom shapes, as long as the math worked out to supply the required coverage.
Oeding attributes the project’s success to G&S’ seasoned experience with custom acoustics. “One of the main advantages of working with them was that they could advise us on the acoustics of the space, provide the material and do the installation,” she said. “They were very helpful in determining the square footage of acoustical material required and where to best place it.”
“Our state-of-the-art, custom-designed products are suitable for use in any space that requires acoustical treatment,” says Golterman. “We are one of the few manufacturers in the country to offer these types of custom products, and we are getting tremendous interest in using panels as part of the branding message. We’re able to bring marketing and architecture into one budget, and clients are using this ‘real estate’ to tell their stories—often with considerable cost savings. Using a combination of key visuals and optimized architecture delivers an intended message and sound control all at once.”