Acoustic Panels Form Visual Ribbon at Cornell College’s Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center

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20220804 081008
Photos courtesy of Kahler Slater

20220804 133913 2From the moment visitors enter Cornell College’s Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center, which officially opened in October 2022 in Mount Vernon, Iowa, their eye is drawn from the lobby lounge area to functional fitness spaces on the opposite side of the facility by a band of school color that reaches from floor to ceiling, then across a dotted line of acoustic “clouds,” and finally back down a slam wall. This “ribbon,” as architect Adam Bastjan of Kahler Slater calls it, reinforces the Cornell brand, assists with wayfinding and visually ties the entire facility together. The standard, inexpensive ceiling panels that comprise the clouds are custom factory-painted to the college’s exact shade of purple and enhanced with linear LED lighting, which seemingly extends from similar fixtures in the adjacent cardio deck’s more conventional ceiling. The lighting strips stop short of spanning the cloud panels, making each look more complete as opposed to bisected. “This is very economical stuff. It’s just done as part of a larger move, which takes away the individual feel of the panels,” Bastjan says, pointing out yet another benefit of the modest investment. “Those panels are also hiding all of our mechanical runs. You can look up between those panels and see the ductwork that’s passing back and forth, but the panels — because of their color, because of the larger move they make — tend to visually hide the clutter behind them quite a bit more.”

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