The OUE Skyspace at the iconic US Bank Tower offers visitors panoramic, 360-degree views of Los Angeles. When designing the interior of the observation deck, which encircles the 70th floor of the 72-story office building, the architect imagined a space that celebrated the romance, glamour, thrill, and optimism that is unique to Los Angeles.
Designed as an event floor to accommodate banquets, presentations, and other events, the observation deck is also the entrance to the Skyslide attraction, a glass slide attached to the outside of the building that offers a thrill ride down to the outdoor terrace on the floor below.
“The overriding design principle for the observation deck is based on the Los Angeles Golden Hour, the ‘magic hour’ of cinematography, fractured light, Hollywood glamour, and Art Deco opulence,” says project architect Audrey Wu, of Gensler, Los Angeles.
Reflecting this theme are golden chevron ceilings created for the observation deck lobby. Following the geometry of the tower crown, eight chevron-shaped ceiling clouds were to be made from drywall, covered with gold foil, and installed in the lobby on the 70th floor. Prior to installation, it was discovered that the drywall material would not work with the mechanicals in the plenum and a more flexible ceiling approach would be needed.
Using a gold art deco style bangle bracelet for inspiration, Gensler developed a new design for the chevron ceilings that featured louver-like planks canted at an angle to create a layered look, and painted gold to reflect the sun.
Realizing the Design Vision
With the opening date for the SkySpace fast approaching, Gensler turned to the You Inspire Solutions Center at Armstrong Ceilings to make the new ceiling design a reality with a quick turnaround.
Working with Gensler and specialty ceiling contractor Martin Integrated Systems, of Orange, Calif., the design team at the You Inspire Solutions Center realized Gensler’s vision using custom MetalWorks ceiling panels attached and angled upward to create a louvered look. “They almost look like Venetian blinds in appearance,” says design engineer Dan Holdridge.
Ranging in size from anywhere between 20-to-34 feet wide by 13-to-15 feet deep, the clouds each have unique dimensions, depending on where in the circular lobby they are installed. The ceiling panels are made from rectangular-shaped, 1/8 inch thick extruded aluminum tubes that vary in length, depending on the size of the cloud. “Each ceiling pod is unique consisting of uniquely-cut extruded aluminum tubes,” says Holdridge. “With the shape of the building being so odd, every one of them had to be different.”
To make sure the 1½-inch by 6-inch louvered panels fit together at the correct angles with the 1½-inch by 4-inch framing panels, the tubes were CNC-milled-and-water-jetted to create the exact shapes needed to secure each panel.
“There was a lot of machine work on these tubes to get all the different angles to be just right so the louvers fit perfectly into the slots in the outer tubes and you would end up with a seamless look underneath,” he explains.
All the components were drawn in 3-D to make sure they would all fit together correctly when assembled in the field. “Everything we provided was drawn in 3-D—including the nuts, bolts, and screws -- so we knew it was all going to work together,” he adds. “Everything was numbered and had its own position in the design. There was no other way to know that everything was going to be the right size and shape and fit together.”
The team from Armstrong Ceilings worked with Gensler to develop the custom gold finish the architect desired for the ceiling panels. “We wanted a metallic sparkle,” says Wu.
Installing the Chevron Ceilings
Within six months, the ceiling components were delivered and the ceiling contractor began the time-consuming task of transporting the materials one crate at a time up two different sets of freight elevators to the observation deck on the 70th floor. “It probably took as much time to load the material on the floor as it did to install the ceiling system itself,” says Marty Hovivian, president, Martin Integrated Systems.
Building the support system needed to suspend the clouds was the most challenging part of the installation, according to Hovivian. “At first glance, it looks quite simple, but it was very complex. There were a lot of obstructions above the ceiling that we had to work around—a lot of metal framing and joisting—to ensure the installation would be seismically safe and carry the ceiling well.”
The design team recommended that the exposed ceiling and mechanical elements above the clouds be painted black and that black drywall grid be used to blend in with the background.
“We created a mockup, looking at gold paint swathed against white and black ceilings, and we convinced (the building owner) that the black backdrop would best accentuate the gold chevrons and make them appear to float,” explains Wu.
Once the support system was built, the ceiling was installed easily by securing the louvered panels horizontally inside the slots of the vertical framing panels. “What’s unique about these ceilings is that the louvered pieces are gradually rising,” says Hovivian. “They probably rise about 12” from top to bottom. All the slots in the framing tubes are cut in at an angle to allow for the elevation change.”
Working with the 3-D drawings Armstrong Ceilings provided, the contractor completed the installation in time for the construction deadline.
“We worked day and night six days a week to complete the installation in time for the opening event,” says Hovivian. The ceiling installation also came in under budget. “What we did cost less than the drywall ceiling option,” he adds. “They got something that was more successful for less money.”
Pleased with the result, Wu was impressed at how well the ceiling installation achieved the design vision. “It’s quite amazing how close to the original vision they turned out,” she says. “The chevron ceilings evoke the magic of the Los Angeles Golden Hour—that time of day when the light takes on a golden tone—and they reference the Hollywood glamour and art deco style of an earlier era.”
Wu was also impressed with how quickly the chevron ceiling design became a reality, enabling Gensler to meet its construction deadline and have the Skyspace open on time. “It is amazing what can be done in a short amount of time,” she adds. “We had some really tight parameters to work with and I really can’t think of a smoother process given all the challenges we were facing with both schedule and cost.”