At Albuquerque's Convention Center, flooring evokes a sense of place: Designer Forum - Jan 2017
By Kate Barone Dimock and Julie Kelly-Smith
As part of its burgeoning downtown revitalization efforts, the City of Albuquerque hired Dekker/Perich/Sabatini to transform the aged Albuquerque Convention Center into a sought-after venue and city landmark. Originally built in the 1960s, its Brutalist aesthetic did not reflect the culture of the area and was difficult to sell as a convention destination. For its $23 million renovation, the mayor’s charge to the design team was to establish a strong regional architectural presence that would express the city’s unique identity.
To define Albuquerque’s architectural character, D/P/S looked to the Territorial style as a way to bridge past and future, something that the style was used to achieve at the end of the 19th century when more advanced building methods brought to the West by railroad. The resulting Territorial Revival style achieves a future-focused civic presence true to New Mexico. Inside the facility, carpet plays an important role in softening the look of the Convention Center, both literally and aesthetically, as well as establishing a firm visual connection between the convention center and Albuquerque culture.
The two-phased renovation began in 2012 and was completed in January 2015. The first phase of construction involved a complete demolition and reconstruction of the 11,000-square-foot main kitchen, the addition of a new service elevator, and the addition of a service corridor to serve the completely remodeled 30,000-square-foot ballrooms on the upper level. These modifications drastically improve the access of service to the ballrooms and allow the west wall to be opened to a new balcony constructed in the second phase.
The second phase involved a complete makeover of the interior, including new carpet, finishes, lighting and signage for 185,000 square feet of the west building and 83,000 square feet of the east building. The main elevator in the west building is incorporated into a new three-story fireplace element in the atrium space, which, along with the new stylistic and comfortable furniture, creates a warm and inviting “living room” feel on the lower level. This area is further highlighted by a custom carpet design that features an aerial topographic view of Albuquerque, including its prize jewel, the Rio Grande.
The exterior renovation adds a gracious 8,600-square-foot Territorial Revival style portal on the western façade that shelters a new glazed entry hall. New balconies and tower elements provide visitors with access to the outdoors and views of downtown Civic Plaza, and the new exterior color softens the former Brutalist aesthetic with warm earth tones. To complete the overall exterior update, Third Street to the west was realigned to allow landscaping and provide a pedestrian table across Third Street to the convention center’s new plaza and main entry.
The interior design focuses on creating a sense of place through natural textures, tones and symbols. To accomplish this, custom flooring blends inspiration from the distinguished Sandia Mountains and natural landscape with Native American textiles that offer a rich, indigenous color palette and familiar cultural patterns. The inspiration culminates in a classic chevron pattern-repeated throughout in a variety of colors, textures and materials-and an assortment of custom-designed flooring in specialized areas.
Attractive, durable and flexible, the flooring includes carpet tile, custom-designed broadloom carpet, walk-off carpet tile, porcelain tile and painted concrete tile. The collection of patterns and texture satisfies maintenance and cost concerns by hiding stains and reducing trip hazards from wet mop cleanups, especially in open bar areas. The flooring also provides visual interest against the neutral-colored walls and softens the building. Materials were selected based on comfort, ease of maintenance and repair, and ability to achieve hospitality-sized patterns.
The new floor design addresses the abundance of hard surfaces, Brutalist interior and resulting acoustical issues. Although hard surfaces are often popular in hospitality spaces, the design team determined they were not particularly suitable for the convention center’s events and exhibits, which often require people to stand for long periods. The loud acoustics were also believed to be fatiguing for convention visitors.
To renovate the floor, the existing brick pavers were skim coated. This created a smooth subfloor for the installation of new materials and eliminated floor demolition and construction waste. Covering the brick pavers with carpet achieves a much warmer aesthetic and contributes to comfort underfoot. It also softens the acoustics in conjunction with wall and ceiling treatments.
Extensive renovations were required both inside and out to make the space feel more inviting and more relevant. Because of budget constraints, the design team looked for opportunities to reduce cost wherever possible. While broadloom carpet is frequently found throughout hospitality spaces, the design team and client opted to use carpet tile for much of the Albuquerque Convention Center. An innovative installation technique grouped tiles together to produce the large-scale patterns typically achieved with hospitality broadloom carpeting. The product met similar standards to broadloom, but its ease of replacement along with its lower cost made carpet tile a more popular choice for this space.
Walk-off carpet tile was applied in the west entry hall. It repeats the chevron motif while also capturing outside dirt and dust. In lieu of creating a small pad at door entries only, the entire vestibule was carpeting in this product to create a seamless installation in line with the chevron design concept.
Broadloom carpet is utilized in the three renovated ballrooms. The custom, large-scale print with red and purple hues creates a more welcoming, friendly environment. The pattern again recalls the natural landscape symbolized throughout the renovation in color and texture; the iconic hollyhock flower is replicated at the center of three inset sections that correspond to operable partitions. The hollyhocks are bordered with fringe chevron patterns in multiple scales to emulate area rugs.
Also redone in broadloom carpet to accommodate heavy traffic and comfort underfoot, the atrium floor showcases the prized Rio Grande and its bosque. The print was created using a satellite GIS aerial graphic of the city, and slight color modifications coordinate the print with other carpets and finishes. The atrium’s oversized pattern balances the large volume of surrounding spaces and is scaled to match the three-story high fireplace. It also makes Albuquerque visible in a literal depiction of the city, and suggests cultural importance in a very public space. Guests can view the image from the second and third floor atrium spaces.
While carpet dominates the interior flooring renovations, porcelain tile was also used for visual interest and performance needs. A neutral-colored tile was laid in chevron patterns on the stairs and accommodates radiant heating beneath. A brightly patterned porcelain was used in the tasting room as well, repeating the hollyhock theme used throughout the space’s design.
The overall transformation of the Albuquerque Convention Center softens the scale of the building and its original Brutalist design. The Territorial Revival style, with the incorporation of natural, traditional and culturally relevant patterns and colors in the interior finishes, communicates Albuquerque’s rich history while also speaking to its future. In response to the execution of the design, Laura Kesselman of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors says, “I am proud to show off our new convention center to clients and fellow planners, and their reaction has been amazing to see.” The remodel has paid off with the highest number of bookings the center has seen in eight years. The finishes provide durability and warmth to the space, ensuring continued success for this venue.
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