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Friday | 13 January, 2012 | 4:05 pm

Elegant facade

By Gretchen Salois

LuminOre’s metal surface offers an aesthetically pleasing alternative

January 2012- The Dorchester Hotel in London offers its guests a bit of old world tradition coupled with modern amenities that tinge travelers with excited anticipation. Celebrating its 80th year in 2011, the hotel has taken steps to revive its fixtures without relinquishing its charm. The Office of Thierry Despont, the designer of the building, hired Brooklyn-based Situ Studio to fabricate a series of facade panels for the outside of the hotel, using metallic panels mounted to the balconies overlooking Hyde Park, a striking alliance of two different styles.

When deciding which material to use for the balconies, LuminOre composite metal was preferred over traditional solid-metal fabrication techniques, according to Thomas Valente, president, LuminOre Inc., Carlsbad, Calif. “LuminOre is not a paint, it’s a true, real metal surface,” Valente says. “When we fabricate the form and shape from cost-effective substrates such as fiberglass, foam or other materials, the cost is only pennies on the dollar compared to solid-metal fabrication.”

Another reason why the material is preferable is because of the level of detail achievable using it. “The aesthetic value is much higher than is possible with solid metal,” Valente says. “The weight is insignificant when compared to solid metal and does not require structural reinforcement of the building in most cases.”

The architect chose the nickel silver metal from LuminOre’s samples. According to Valente, Situ Studio researched the cost and weight factors using solid metal and found it was expensive in addition to being heavy—in this case, much too heavy to use on the hotel. “Situ performed additional research and located LuminOre on the Internet,” Valente adds, noting the company collaborated with Situ and project managers in the United Kingdom, to develop in a plan of action.

Foam was used as a very lightweight, cost-effective material that allowed LuminOre to CNC machine the detail of the cascading wall. The polyuria hard coat reinforced the foam, says Valente. “It would not be commercially viable to use solid metal on this project,” he says.

Lightweight versatility
According to Situ Studio, the intent was to create the perception of a continuous metallic surface flowing from the top of the building to its base. The company created 24 custom panels made of CNC-milled foam coated in polyurethane resin hardcoat and finished in LuminOre’s nickel silver. Along with the architects, Situ Studio worked with LuminOre to create the custom panels as well as a mounting system.

The panels weigh 9 pounds per square foot. Twenty feet wide and ranging in height from 6 1/2 feet to 10 feet tall, the panels create a unique ripple effect along the building. The panels were attached by fiber-reinforced plastic frames to steel fittings tied back into the building’s main floor slab, according to LuminOre. Four thousand square feet of LuminOre composite metal was used to create the 24 panels.

LuminOre notes architects can use the company’s materials to create a veneer of real metal over a variety of materials underneath. LuminOre’s unique material has been used in myriad projects, including the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Barney’s department stores, Louis Vuitton stores as well as for feature films such as Warner Bros.’ Batman & Robin and Cat in the Hat. The company’s fabrication facility in Lake Elsinore, Calif., allows the company’s artists and technicians to take on projects brought to them by developers. Working with everything from metals, concrete, hardcoat over foam as well as in-mold process and CNC machinery, the company also offers the ability to bring its entire fabrication facility to the project site itself. MM

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