Over 5,500 composite-metal panels in five custom colors, widths, and depths, combined with energy-efficient windows, make up the facade of MassArt's new residence hall.
When the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) completed its new 20-story, $52 million residence hall on Boston's Avenue of the Arts last year, it created a bold addition to the city's skyline. Designed by ADD Inc, the building has a striking facade inspired by Gustav Klimt's 1909 painting Tree of Life—fitting for the country's first independent public art college.
Clad with over 5,500 aluminum-composite panels in five custom colors, five widths, and five depths, the facade “expresses the beauty and color of what is happening inside the institution,” says ADD Inc principal B.K. Boley. The design team held a large charrette with students, faculty, and neighbors, who overwhelmingly voted that the facade should read as strongly as a painting.
The variety of panel formats that would allow the building skin to resemble the bark of a tree could have blown the budget, but the team found a solution. “There was enough visual interest created by the depths of the panels changing that if all we did was change the colors between those groupings, you could never see it was exactly the same metal-panel extrusion being repeated over and over again,” says the project's design-team leader, Tamara Roy. An extensive color study resulted in the browns, greens, and golds of a tree in autumn. The illusion is perhaps too good. “People go by it and ask us if it might be wood,” says Roy. “It's not so easy to pin down.”
The double-insulated metal panels, made of Alucobond Plus aluminum-composite material, were fabricated and installed by Lymo Construction. The Massachusetts State Energy Code—compliant wall assembly is a pressure-equalized rainscreen system that meets the NFPA 285 multistory fire test. The building's facade includes a curtain wall and punched low-E windows made by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope that have a solar tint to reduce heat gain.

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