GKD Creates a Provocative Stainless-Steel Sunscreen that Envelopes and Protects a Glass-clad Research Library

December 12, 2017

Founded in 1960 by Indianapolis lawyer and businessman Pierre F. Goodrich, the Liberty Fund preserves, restores and develops individual liberty through investigation, research, and educational activity.  After spending years in a rented space, a prominent wooded site along US-31 in Carmel, IN was selected for the organization’s new global headquarters. The 61,000-square foot building is its home for the next half-century and its design is intended to reflect the timelessness of the organization’s mission.

The glass-clad research library is the main focal point of the facility. Easily visible from the highway, 30 provocative GKD stainless steel sunscreens protect the library’s collection and provide physical expression of the Liberty Fund mission. Each screen represents a century of human history and is etched with names and events important to liberty in each century. The legibility of each screen changes with the sun throughout the day and the seasons. And as the sun sets at the end of each day, and the interior lighting takes prominence, the library’s vast collection becomes visible to the outside world.

Worth the Wait

Architectural Firm Rowland Design was originally contacted by the Liberty Fund to renovate its library. Located in a shared commercial office building, the library was a source of pride for the organization. As a research entity, the library held valuable first-edition books and additional materials used by scholarly fellows at the Fund.

However, the economic downturn in 2008 forced plans to be put on hold. As the economy rebounded, the Liberty Fund and Roland Design decided to go in the direction of building a new headquarters. “Investing in its own structure made better financial sense,” said Eric J. Rowland, AIA, LEED AP.

“We revisited the program and outlined the general requirements for the building, followed by a site search. While Liberty Fund originally sought to find a wooded, isolated site, they ultimately chose an 8-acre site adjacent to a well-traveled highway. This is beneficial as the building façade we created commands a lot of physical presence and interest,” he added.

A Façade with Purpose

By working with GKD’s expert team of in-house designers, fabricators and installers, Rowland Design and the Liberty Fund were able to brainstorm and design 30 stainless steel metal fabric panels. They came up with the idea of building a giant timeline that tracked the concept of liberty over thousands of years.

“With a name like Liberty Fund, people think the organization is an insurance agency,” said Rowland. “Our clients wanted to become better known for what they do, and the façade shows this off. The board of the Fund was intrigued with the idea of taking the timeline and giving it a second life.”

The installation was also necessary to protect the precious books from the setting sun to the west and add visual intrigue to passersby on the highway. “We wanted to reverse this and make it visible on the exterior of the building,” said Rowland.

“The concept of duality of transparency was key here. During the day you can see the timeline by century and at night when the lights are on you can see the books and not the timeline. This day-to-evening transformation provokes curiosity.”

Finding the Right Partner

To achieve the right look, the design team wanted to create an elegant installation that had a sense of permanence. They started researching options for the façade and GKD became a major contender early in the process.

“In doing research on screen material, we were worried about directly abutting panels since there can be bowing,” said Rowland. “We had seen a lot of applications on parking structures and other commercial buildings, but we wanted to use material that moved beyond this.”

The team ended up using GKD stainless steel metal fabric in specific widths that represented the centuries. They then used a second GKD screen behind each panel that created a continuous solar shading effect. They also left gaps in between the panels to avoid a moiré pattern (an unwanted geometric shift in the pattern) from occurring for passing cars.

Design & Installation Challenges

A slight challenge during the process came when the design team needed to figure out how to install the panels on the 35-foot glass curtain walls without disrupting the surface. In response, GKD worked to minimize the structural system so it didn’t impede the overall look and feel they were trying to achieve. Glue-laminated trees march down the center of the space so the tension of the GKD panels isn’t problematic.

The panels work independently of the curtain wall and are attached to the roof, wall and foundation above and below. Galvanized steel receivers in the limestone base and roof structure that hold each cable. This is connected to cable and stainless-steel rod.

General Contractor Shiel Sexton also ran into an installation challenge during the final phase of construction. “The design drawings didn’t account for specific installation needs from the GKD team,” said project manager Brian Rooksberry. “We had to make last minute changes to the layout and hole sizes for the attachment system. Once we got this coordinated, the installation process went off without a hitch,” he added.

Rooksberry was quick to say that GKD was easy to work with and helped them to coordinate a fix quickly. “As with any specialty company, we were working with custom pieces that are highly specialized for each individual project,” he said.

 An Attention-Grabbing Finished Product 

The finished Liberty Fund Library is a contemporary space that pays homage to the past. Successful from a design and educational standpoint, it will serve as a center of research for decades to come.

“GKD provided guidance and assistance throughout the project,” said Rowland. “From design through installation they were able to provide us with the help we needed to make our client’s vision come true. This included creating custom etching, cost effective galvanized brackets, and balancing technical and architectural details.”

Rooksberry agreed, saying, “The finished product looks great and is just bold enough to make people ask, ‘what exactly is that thing?’” That is the best response the design team could have asked for.