From cowboy life to West African art, Lone Star dinosaurs to distant planets, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is dedicated to lifelong learning. So, it was only fitting that when the museum undertook the construction of a new, $80 million facility, the design included sweeping spaces highlighted by what could easily be viewed as a literal representation of “learning curves.”

Designed by internationally renowned architects Legorreta + Legorreta, the 166,000 square-foot building features dramatic open spaces with domed, curved and barrel-vaulted ceilings throughout. The job of bringing the architect’s curved concepts to life fell to Integrated Interiors, a Fort Worth contractor with expertise in specialty commercial drywall installations.

Integrated Interiors selected Chicago Metallic’s 650 Fire-Rated Dry Wall Suspension System as the framework for this challenging project. In all, more than 35,000 square-feet of Rockfon’s Chicago Metallic suspension system was used in creating the museum’s curved and flat drywall ceilings. The project took approximately 18 months.

Flexible Strength
Achieving the architect’s vision required a drywall suspension system with the capability to be shaped to design specifications. According to Integrated Interiors Project Manager Karl Ekonomy, “It was critical for us to achieve a clean, true radius. The Chicago Metallic system radius furring tees can curve to create architectural designs.” 

Rew Materials, a building materials distributor in the Fort Worth area, worked with Integrated Interiors in choosing Rockfon’s Chicago Metallic suspension system. According to Rew Materials Sales Manager Doug Cain, “This job required a suspension system that was very workable and pliable, that could bend without creating snags, burrs or crimps. The Chicago Metallic system provided a nice, smooth framework.”

The aesthetic advantages of that structural framework are evident in the beautiful domed ceiling of the museum’s Omni IMAX® theater, as well as in the side-by-side barrel-vaulted ceilings throughout the building’s most dramatic spaces.

Equally important in the selection of the drywall suspension system was weight-bearing capacity. The curved ceilings required multiple layers of drywall to be mechanically fastened to the suspension system to achieve the smooth, finished surface. “[Rockfon’s] Chicago Metallic Drywall [suspension system] is constructed of galvanized steel and has a high load rating,” notes Cain. “We were confident that it complied with the project’s structural requirements.”

Labor-saving Installation
Time is money, and that’s especially true in long-term projects. Over the course of the year-and-a-half installation of the museum ceilings, Karl Ekonomy was pleased with the labor saving advantages of Rockfon’s Chicago Metallic Drywall Suspension System. “Compared to conventional cold rolled channel and drywall furring channel construction, the Chicago Metallic suspension system offers definite labor savings,” he said. 

Adding to the ease of installation was Integrated Interior’s choice of a stab system instead of a hook system for snapping the cross tees into the main tees. The stab system helped facilitate faster construction of the ceiling’s framework, which involved main tees at 4 feet. on center with cross tees installed at 16-inches o.c for the flat drywall ceilings, and 8-inches o.c. for the barrel vaulted ceilings.

Also helping to keep the project on track was support provided by Rockfon Area Sales Manager Bryan Hays. “Bryan was very quick to respond to our needs,” said Doug Cain. “When we ran short of specialty clips and accessory items, he got involved and expedited the delivery to keep the project moving. He really went above and beyond for us.”

Shaping the Future
In expressing his vision for the new museum, Architect Ricardo Legorreta described the new building as a “very happy environment, a building for kids, young people and adults.” With the museum opening a new future of learning takes shape as visitors enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this structure with real curve appeal.