Designer Forum: Gauged porcelain tile lays the groundwork for an office building’s dramatic transformation – July 2023
Interview by Jennifer Bardoner
Built in 1990, the Promenade building in Atlanta, Georgia was a co-ownership property with AT&T as 50% owner and tenant in the building. The balance was originally designed to promote occupancy of professional-service tenants. Following AT&T’s departure years prior, in 2020, TVS was selected by Cousins Properties to create a transformative design modification to revitalize the building’s character and attractiveness for progressive new technology and creative tenants.
The scope of work dramatically embraced the large-volume lobby by converting the central stair hall to a new gathering and terraced seating environment with a wood-clad planter repurposed from trees previously taken from the site. The entirety of the ground floor was changed from a simple passage to elevators into a grand social gathering area with a variety of options supported by a coffee shop, Café Bistro and an expanded fitness center. A new amenity conference center and wellness area was also added on the second floor. The interior commons area visually flows through the glass façade to a totally redesigned exterior garden area with numerous new work and social settings. With the challenges of a southern-facing façade, the full glass elevation at the garden level was replaced with new View glass that automatically changes its shade density over the course of the day to provide enhanced comfort.
• Main lobby, common area, locker room, tenant restrooms, stadium seating-stone and wood looks from Ceramic Technics
• Lobby walls and columns, stadium seating walls, elevators-gauged porcelain stone and marble looks from Iris U.S.
• Promenade-level walk-off areas-striated carpet tile from Mats Inc.
• Conference rooms, second-floor corridors-geometric carpet tile from Tarkett
Q: How did the flooring feed the design, or vice versa?
A: The original flooring was dark granite. A new, lighter colored floor was important, as was a more affordable solution. Porcelain tile was a perfect answer.
It is important to get the floor right due to the large area-it is the “anchor” of the space. We typically like to select our floor material and design first, then select walls and other components from there. We wanted to move away from a dark floor and have one that was light and airy. We also wanted natural movement, so it looked organic with stone qualities.
Q: What was the overall objective of this project?
A: The overall objective was to have a “tech garden” aesthetic. The building boasts one of the few urban garden plazas in the city, which has served as its primary tenant entry experience for years. The concept was to bring the garden feel into the building, but in a modern way. By using tile that had organic characteristics, we were able to tie the design back to the exterior garden.
Q: Why were gauged porcelain panels the best choice for this project and environment? What were the biggest considerations and objectives?
A: The gauged porcelain tile panels were selected for the interior because of the impressive scale of the panels, their beauty, color consistency, dramatic stone effect patterning, stain resistance and color permanence. The pattern management enabled a large-scale effect seldom achievable in natural stone. Additionally, the large dimensions provide for a minimum amount of panel joints, and the super-flatness allowed us to control visual reflections. The use of Italian tile for floors and walls also provided an affordable solution that was less expensive than natural stone, wood paneling and other alternatives and enabled an expeditious installation, as well.
Q: What more can you tell us about the application of flooring in this project?
A: We selected two primary porcelain floor tiles. A large white limestone-look tile in a 30”x60” and a 30”x30” format was utilized throughout the main lobby, elevator lobbies and elevator cabs to provide a bright, light and fresh look. Additionally, we used a wood plank tile on the grand bleacher stair in a long plank format and in the Commons area at the coffee shop and conference center in a herringbone pattern. We chose this tile to also use outside in the garden as an extension of the interior.
Modular carpet was selected for walk-off areas on the Promenade level and the meeting spaces in the conference center, as well as general corridors on the second floor.
Q: Did you run into any issues with the porcelain installation or fabrication?
A: We fortunately had two excellent tile subcontractors, DCO and Gordy Tile, working under Turner Construction. Gordy Tile was responsible for all thin gauged porcelain tile panels. They provided a well-trained team of certified installers. We addressed our concerns very early regarding our expectations around polished-edge details, joint spacing, flatness and pattern coordination. They were very responsive and delivered excellent work. Similar results were provided by DCO. The general contractor was engaged in proper oversight and timely remedy for any marginal work that might occur. Equally important was our field review. We provided design art direction for all pattern coordination of digital tile graphics.
Q: What about the logistics of using reclaimed wood harvested from trees originally on the site?
A: The building was initially built in 1990. At that time, a crescent row of maple trees was installed that defined the edge of the exterior entry garden. Years later, the adjacent vacant land was sold for another development, and the trees were removed. Fortunately, the logs from the beautiful trees that had been cut down were sawn into boards and retained by a local woodworker, Whitney Wolf with Jack Ellis.
Aware of this, we created our design solution for the new stair and bleacher space to incorporate a terraced planter to extend the concept of the garden into the interior space. We chose to reclaim the wood and promote a crafted aesthetic, putting many of the wood planks back together. This, of course, provides for a great story of reuse and reclamation. The wood-clad planters also worked amazingly well with the tile selections.
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