Autex made a bold contribution to the award-winning remodel of the La Posada Dining Hall at the University of New Mexico (UNM) – garnering praise for the project's impact and success. The striking Frontier™ Acoustic Fin system is a standout feature of the dining hall, with Autex’s custom-designed drop-ceiling panels and vibrant Falling Water colour scheme a hit with the university and the architects. The project, which brought new life to the 50-year-old building, has won the Honor Award - Interior Architecture from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Amy Coburn, UNM architect/director, said the Frontier system performed the way the university wanted; “We love the product, it looks great.” Project Architect Vicente Castillo, of Vigil & Associates, said the Frontier system helped add “the defining element” to the interior space. “It provides a soft, organic counterpoint to the hard-edged existing conditions of the building, while delivering acoustic absorption,” he said. “It has worked great for the application.”
Tom Gage, account manager for Autex North America, said the AIA award was important for the project, and was especially pleasing for Autex. “We have a special focus on the education sector, with other schools using Frontier, but this is one of our bigger projects in recent times,” he said. “It required special design and customised engineering by the Autex team and we enjoyed the challenge. The result is very effective.”
Faced with the need to cover changing ceiling levels, Autex designed and engineered a customised drop ceiling that set the acoustic fins at a 45-degree angle, seamlessly transitioning from the full height of the dining hall mezzanine down to the single-story dining and amenity areas. To achieve the result, Eric Clifton of ESA Construction said his team used a temporary T-grid support system and jigs to align the acoustic fins along the curve. The design also called for the ceiling-mounted acoustic fins to extend in horizontal wave patterns into the atrium area to enhance the system’s integration into the overall scheme.
Vigil & Associates acknowledged the challenges. “Autex was able to accommodate unique aspects of the design concept which were outside the typical product intentions”, Mr Castillo said. While performance and impact were two key elements, Frontier scored for the university in another critical area of a project; the budget. “Affordability was the most important [element],” Ms Coburn said.
The dining hall – which operates 24/7 and serves up to 5,000 meals a day – is used as a meeting place, recreational area, and study space, making good acoustics crucial. Frontier Acoustic Fins are made from at least 45% post-consumer material, making them good for the environment as well as the client. This was a key attraction for the architects; “Our office … strives to use renewable and recyclable materials wherever possible,” Mr Castillo said. “We look forward to new and interesting ways to use Autex in future.”