Keeping up appearances

By Lisa Rummler

March 2010 - Inside the Tampa Museum of Art, visitors can admire paintings, photography and sculptures from world-renowned artists. The museum's exterior, however, also catches the eye and garners praise.

That's largely thanks to the aluminum panels from McNichols Co., Tampa, Fla., that make up the facility's metal "skin."

"Most of the museum's facade consists of two layers of perforated metal panels positioned slightly off-center from one another, creating a wavy moire pattern during the day," according to a press release.

The clear, anodized aluminum panels are 0.125 inches thick, and they feature 3-inch-diameter perforations that are 1 inch apart in straight lines. To keep them secure to the museum, 40,000 stainless steel mounting brackets are used.

The panels come in almost 300 sizes, and nearly 4,000 of them wrap the museum's upper levels and atrium. They cover the building's exterior walls, cantilevered soffits, entryway and inner atrium--about 98,000 square feet of the building surface.

Part of McNichols' Designer Metals line, the panels are developed specifically for the architectural industry and feature environmentally friendly materials.

"McNichols perforated aluminum contains an average 10 percent to 35 percent post-consumer and 50 percent to 90 percent post-industrial recycled content, which supports green design and can contribute to LEEDcredits," according to the press release.

Setting a precedent
Although McNichols has done work with other museums, President Scott McNichols says the Tampa Museum of Art was a new kind of undertaking for the company.

"We will put up a railing with some of our wire or expanded or perforated product, and we'll do a landing here or there [in museums]," he says. "But the entire skin of the building? That's never been done before in our world."

Additionally, McNichols says the project is not part of a specific business strategy but that the company plans to keep its eyes open for similar opportunities.

"If it is the right fit for us, and if it complements our customer service model, then we'll definitely take a hard look at it," says McNichols.

Test of time
The Tampa Museum of Art opened to the public Feb. 6, and McNichols was there for the opening-night event. He says it was then that he fully realized the magnitude of the project.

"We are a family business, and my grandfather started the company in 1952," says McNichols. "When I stood there on opening night and looked around and heard everyone was talking about [the facade], it settled in for me that, 'Wow, this is going to be here for the next century. And our product's hanging all over it.' And then I thought, 'I wonder what my granddad thinks?' It was very humbling to be at that place, in my thinking, especially in our hometown."

Additionally, he says everyone at McNichols is grateful for the opportunity to work on the Tampa Museum of Art and make the vision into a reality.

"We are thankful to help somebody's dream come true," says McNichols. "The architect had the dream for it, and he [has done] other projects, but I really think this is one of his crown jewels." MM















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