Public Space Architecture & Fabrication

Cover of ISFA Countertops and Architectural Surfaces Magazine featuring ASST's thermoformed spiral staircase project
Photo of complex thermoformed spiral staircase fabricated by ASST

Photo by Chuck Choi Architectural Photography – click to enlarge

A Project WIth a Twist

Fabricator conquers complex commercial construction of KRION® solid surface stairway

By Andrew Dreves, ASID

Spiral staircases are certainly nothing new but fabricating an enormous one in solid surface with compound angles, well that is new. And that’s exactly the project that renowned architectural firm Payette had in mind for an atrium in the building that would connect both 75 and 125 Binney Street, in the heart of Boston, that when completed would be the home of Ariad Pharmaceuticals.

The design for the monumental stairs was inspired by the red spiraling spool of thread depicted in the Ariad Pharmaceuticals logo. However, the design was highly complex with two surface planes meeting along a rising curve (see Figure 1). The difficulty of fabricating the project was nearly as massive as the project itself, so much so that most fabricators wouldn’t even attempt it. However, Payette already knew a company that would be likely to take on the challenge.

Figure 1

Figure 1 – click to enlarge

The Architectural Firm

Payette was no stranger to complex projects. Although it is based in Boston, it has completed advanced architectural projects around the world.

The firm was originally most well known for the many hospital and healthcare facilities it designed centered on enhancing patient experiences. It created architecture with an intimate connection to the landscape coupled with an abundant use of color and natural light to help orient patients and visitors. Through the promotion of the same humanistic values and fundamental design approach, over time the firm broadened its focus to include high-technology buildings, bringing deep technical expertise, commitment to rigorous research and
dedication to beauty to a new class of projects. Today, the practice has advanced as an international architectural thought leader, providing planning and design services to leading institutions across the country and abroad.

And it is that reputation that led to Payette being selected to work on this project. Similarly, the high regard that fabrication company ASST, based in south central Pennsylvania, was held in based on the positive outcome of the previous work it had performed with Payette, was the motivating factor to bringing the fabricator onboard for this difficult project. ASST had previously worked with Payette on the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and so the architect was familiar with the well-developed thermoforming capabilities ASST possessed. While other fabricators were invited to bid on the project, ultimately it didn’t necessarily come down to price, but rather ASST was selected because of its thermoforming experience and clean safety record combined with its ability to provide an adequate bonding on a large complicated project such as this to reduce owner and general contractor risk.

The Fabricator

So who was this fabricator daring enough to take on such a difficult project? If you ask anyone familiar with ASST, they likely won’t be surprised that the company stepped up to the plate. ASST is an award-winning specialty surfaces fabricator and manufacturer. As an industry leader, it specializes in complex fabrications and complete Division 6 millwork and casework solutions for the healthcare industry.

However, its work spans a variety of markets beyond healthcare, such as the education, retail and corporate/public space arenas. Known for its innovative (and patented) thermoforming technologies and product designs, ASST takes on project challenges others avoid. It brings to the table a passion for excellence — to go beyond and to build what some initially thought was impossible. Since its founding in 1998, ASST has developed an impressive portfolio of successfully completed projects with high-profile contractors, architects, interior designers and end users.

The company’s headquarters encompass 52,000 sq. ft. and includes both offices and fabrication facilities, including a very large thermoforming workshop. Among the equipment at the disposal of the 31 employees of the company are three thermoforming ovens and two vacuum tables, as well as a 60-ton proprietary press and a vacuum press related to patented ASST technologies. It also has three CNC machines: one 5-axis KOMO CNC machine, one 3-axis KOMO CNC machine and one 3-axis Heian CNC machine. For cutting parts the company also has a Schelling panel saw. The shop is set up into typical “line work” areas for more common flat fabrication work, but also has various open workshop areas for custom projects.

It seems ASST was custom-made for this highly custom project. But once they had been selected for the work, the venture had to be realized.

The Process

The architectural team underwent many design variations, but the main design intent was for the stair to appear to be fabricated from continuous solid surface.

The Porcelanosa Group’s Krion solid surface material, a relative newcomer to the U.S. solid surface market, was chosen by the architects because of its excellent thermoforming capabilities. According to the manufacturer, Krion is a “new generation of solid surface” and has a unique proprietary blend of approximately 75 percent ATH to 25 percent resin. This makes the material easier to thermoform, according to the company, and also best ensures color consistency throughout each sheet. Of course, each manufacturer touts a variety of properties that make it stand out from the rest, but as we all know, beauty (or in this case thermoformability) is in the eye of the beholder.

One of the main complexities of the project, beyond its size, was a result of the stairs having two curved and rising surface planes with cut angles that, by nature, constantly changed as the material pieces were routed to the correct dimensions. So, before any actual fabrication work could be done, modeling was required. Once an initial design was put together, a mockup of one landing was built in the ASST shop to verify the geometry (see Figure 2). Once it was created, the design could then be tweaked according to the architects input, with regard to the lighting and tread termination locations, etc.

Figure 2

Figure 2 – click to enlarge

 

Figure 3

Figure 3 – click to enlarge

To improve the flow of information between the fabricators and architect, a co-location work arrangement was established on-site in Boston to speed up the final design process and to improve communication among team members. With everyone working in one location for two weeks, design revisions were realized faster and coordinated across disciplines (see Figure 3). The group utilized 3-D modeling extensively when it came to determining the aspects of the steel substructure, built by DeAngelis Iron Work, for the plywood support ribs (see Figure 4). When all was said and done, 80 hours of design work were required.

 

Figure 4

Figure 4 – click to enlarge

 

Then came the 2,000 hours of fabrication, which included 196 hours of CNC programming and run-time on the 5-axis KOMO machine. And once all of the parts were fabricated, glued up and sanded, the panels were numbered, labeled and prepared for shipping to the site in Boston for assembly. Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t the end of the challenges involved in the project. As is the case with Northeastern winters, Boston was hit by weekly blizzards during installation. The extreme cold temperatures delayed the schedule by four weeks, and Boston officials even declared a state of emergency at one point with mandatory traffic shutdowns preventing deliveries to the site.

In spite of the challenges and compressed schedule, in the end 215 sheets of ½-in.-thick Krion solid surface in “Fire Red” and “Snow White” were installed using z-clips and the project was completed (see Figure 5). The final result is nothing short of an amazing accomplishment for all involved, and is another spectacular project for Payette and ASST to proudly hang their hats on. The author would like to offer special thanks to Payette’s Gordon Grisinger and Hillary Barlow for their design vision, steel fabricator DeAngelis Iron Work and ASST’s team (in no particular order): Nick Buckley, Josh Cowden, Brian Magness, Bob Hannigan, Mike Henry, Jared Shearer, John Sulc and the entire ASST production team.

Figure 5

Figure 5 – click to enlarge

About the Author

Andrew Dreves, ASID, is the director of marketing and Products Workshop for ASST, 350 South St., McSherrystown, PA 17344; www.asst.com. He is responsible for strategic business development, marketing, branding and product design initiatives for the company and can be reached by email at andrewdreves@asst.com or by phone at (717) 630-1251 ext. 305.



Restaurant owners looking to capitalize on the latest design trends may want to consider paring down the number of accessories and features in a dining space. According to The Independent, many restaurant owners who won this year’s Restaurant and Bar Design Awards used sleek design features and made the visual impact of a space rest more on the industrial design of the structure than using accessories.

“Good design is all about creating something that is going to last,” said Marco Rebora, the RBDA founder, according to the news source. “It’s not about spending millions of pounds on creating a huge statement. If you fail to consider how your guests are actually going to feel within that space, you will go bust within a year.”

Simplistic design grows in popularity
The Independent reported that the restaurants that have been gaining popularity and recognition for their design are incorporating simple aesthetic elements. The ornate design aesthetic that was so popular in previous decades is now out of style.

“The ostentatiousness of the pre-recession era has gone. Unrefined finishes and lots of stone and wood are key at the moment. Foster + Partner’s Atrium Champagne Bar is all about simple stone. Host, in Denmark by Norm Architects, is all very down-to-earth raw wood,” said Rebora.

Rustic designs feature shabby chic interiors
While some design professionals working on restaurants are creating spaces that remove the ornate look of decades gone past, others are trying to recreate a more lived-in look as if this design aesthetic has faded.

“It’s almost anti-design in that they are not slick but distressed and rustic, influenced by the rough-and-ready sensibility of pop-ups and the farm-to-table food trend,” said Bethan Ryder, author of two books on the subject – Restaurant Design and New Restaurant Design.

This means that designers are using reclaimed wood, different types of patterned metals and textured fabrics.

“I wanted to create the kind of place that I feel comfortable in but couldn’t afford a designer or expensive fixtures and fittings. The whole stripping back thing is something that is very important to me in terms of decor as well as the food that we serve – our dishes are very simple with very few ingredients,” Ben McCormack, editor of SquareMeal.co.uk, told the news source.

Using quality simple materials
SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that is built with beauty and function in mind. SCULPTCOR can be used in a wide range of applications in a restaurant from wall panels, column covers, exterior facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture.

The system is fabricated from a non-porous, stain-resistant and easy-to-clean surface that is ideal for a restaurant to use and offers the right blend of flexibility and statement for a restaurant looking to create an impression on diners.

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


Malls represent different things to different generations. As teens hang out at the food court, mothers are trying to get all of their shopping done for the day in one convenient stop. However, with the advancement and growing popularity of online shopping takes off, malls are seeing the number of visitors walking through their doors slightly decrease.

Importance of creating a memorable shopping experience
Despite this, sales are holding strong because those that are heading to the mall have a shopping plan of action in mind typically. Businesses are creating retail spaces that attract buyers who are looking for a particular experience that is not possible to attain online, reported QSR Magazine. However, that's not the case for smaller retail chains that are adapting to changing consumer trends.

Restaurants and other mall dining establishments that are doing well often create a unique experience for diners to appreciate. According to International Council of Shopping Centers spokesman Jesse Tron the focus is creating restaurants that feature entertainment as part of their integral offerings.

Malls attract people to spend considerable time in one place. As a result, people get hungry and start to looking for a place to eat. The restaurants that are doing better in malls and other large shopping venues are those that encourage people to spend time off their feet and enjoy a unique experience.

Creating mall dining establishments
Malls Owners and management companies are beginning to turn traditional food courts into more centralized, eye-catching spaces. Tron told QSR Magazine that malls are beginning to create more comfortable food courts that encourage people to spend more time. Personal spaces with greater privacy, comfortable seating and beautiful works of art are being included in the design concept. A focus on creating visually stimulating spaces will encourage visitors to spend a more time shopping.

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


Interior designers and contractors who specialize in restaurant spaces are looking to the future for the latest trends. Like something out of a science fiction novel, restaurants are incorporating technology in new ways in dining spaces. Bold colors, expressive designs and the use of technology is being demonstrated in many different styles of restaurants. 

Tablet technology in restaurants
Both independent and chain restaurants are making use of tablet technology in dining areas. Restaurant Development and Design Magazine reported that dining establishments are integrating a number of different technologies in their stores, both from the ground up and in retrofit designs. 

"Technology can be used as a point of differentiation within the restaurant industry and especially with millennials," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based research firm Technomic, according to the news source. "Operators who want to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive market will need to evaluate the best use for the latest tech trends and decide how to integrate them into their operations. This may mean having a printed menu available, as well as an iPad/tablet computer." 

Some may believe that restaurant owners are jumping the gun by adding tablets to dining areas, but a new survey has found that many consumers enjoy this feature. Technomic reported that 51 percent of consumers surveyed feel it's important for restaurants to integrate technology into ordering, particularly through tableside touch-screen devices. 

Integrating video monitors into atrium architectural spaces
Monitors are a common sight in many different types of spaces.  However, they should be used sparingly or placed in areas that will get the most notice. Instead of placing televisions just in the bar areas, some restaurant owners are looking to use this technology as a visual feature wall or piece of modern art. By placing video monitors along one wall that is built to visually capture the interest of visitors, a restaurant can make a unique impression on customers.

The newly renovated Chevy Chase Pavilion Atrium located in Washington DC is anything but your typical suburban shopping mall. ASST was retained by Hitt Contracting and worked closely with the creative design agency streetsense to create an amazing design experience for the atrium lounge spaces. The three story interactive lighted media wall was fabricated with 3form resin panels. ASST provided design assistance for the technical aspects of the wall while lighting designers iDesign based in Miami provided the interactive lighting solution and installation.

ASST SCOPE OF WORK: Design assist, fabrication & installation of the 3 form translucent resin light wall, escalators, stair risers, walnut wood casework & upholstered seating and Starbucks Coffee kiosk.

KUDOS: ASST was awarded the Craftsmanship Excellence Award from the Washington Building Congress.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:   Hours are Mon-Sat 7 am-11 pm; Sun 7 am-9 pm. Address: 5335 Wisconsin Ave NW; Washington DC 20015

SUGGESTIONS: Get a latte at the new Starbucks, enjoy the comfortable lounge seating and surf the web on your iPad or just people watch.

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


Creating a unique bar and restaurant experience should be a primary goal for business owners. Having a bar or restaurant establishment that creates an entire experience for diners is exceptionally important as competition gets fierce for customers. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the average American family spent $2,505 at restaurants in 2010. On average, consumers spend about $1.7 billion every year in restaurants and bars.

The National Restaurant Association reported that Americans spend about 46 percent of their food dollar on food not prepared inside the home, which adds up to about $2,400 spent annually in restaurants for the typical family.

Gaining a chunk of all of those dollars may depend largely on whether a dining establishment provides more than a simple meal and beverage. Restaurants and bars will not only have to prepare food and drink that is appealing to its market, but also help create an atmosphere that customers desire. 

Restaurants work to promote upscale atmospheres
Restaurant owners across the nation are working hard to promote their establishments as local hotspots. In some areas of the country, this effort is much more difficult just because of the shear number of people and dining establishments trying to serve everyone. However, some places are standing out because they are bring something unique to the table, so to speak. Contract Design Magazine reported that Jelsomino, a Manhattan club, offers customers a fun-filled evening of karaoke unlike any other. The upscale environment of the club and stand-out stage makes this place unique even in a city like New York. The speakeasy feel of the club is nothing in comparison to the high-quality materials coating the place in splendor. Even the most functional piece of equipment is stylish. And that same desire for flair goes into everything, including hiring wait staff who are professional singers and able to help someone on the karaoke stage belt out a tune at $30 a song. 

The speakeasy environment of the club may not be very unique or modern, but the restaurant owner isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. According to the news source, the club's interior design is more intended to promote a total immersion into the culture of a speakeasy during the roaring 20s. 

Create exceptional spaces using quality materials
By using the right combination of materials, a restaurant owner will be better able to promote the creation of a unique space to attract customers again and again. ASST specializes in the fabrication of premium solid surface and translucent resin materials that are able to create modern, sleek environments for a restaurant and public space. While some restaurant owners like to create an atmosphere that revolves around the past, it's also easy to create a futuristic and modern space with the right material choices that are intended to last and increase the value of the property. 

SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a patented thermoformed architectural wall panel system that is built with beauty and function in mind. The system is fabricated from a non-porous, stain-resistant and easy-to-clean surface that is ideal for a restaurant to use. The material can be used for wall panels, column covers, retail facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture. As a result, it offers the right blend of flexibility and statement for a restaurant looking to create an impression on diners. 

Please contact ASST at 717.630.1251 x305 for architectural support or x307 for specific project estimating assistance.


Commercial spaces get updated

As the effects of the recession begin to recede, many corporations are beginning the process of remodeling offices and other public spaces. Technological advancements and a desire for a new, modern space is pushing forward this trend for renovation. For commercial residential spaces, like towers that house apartments above retail outlets or office spaces, the desire for statement lobbies that convey the overall dedication to quality and style is coming back. 

Commercial and residential combine
"Commercial residential projects were not financed for a long while, and now that's really happening again. People are going back to the idea that quality is the way to go. I think developers should be mindful that the audience is savvy. They know about kitchen manufacturers, millwork, and fixtures, so you can't get tricky. Everything has to be thoughtful and well crafted," Christine Gachot, co-founder of New York's Gachot, told Interior Design Magazine.

Commercial spaces that act as lobbies and grand entrances to residential apartments above are growing in popularity. Many people enjoy the ability to walk by key stores on the way home, instead of having to run out and finish errands. Because this is a more unique offering, interior designers are focusing on making these retail spaces, which sometimes can hold restaurants, modern and enticing. Stakeholders in the property want these commercial spaces to offer services and products, but also an experience.

As a result, the use of innovative structures and design components is essential to the creation of these spaces. 

How ASST can help boost the design of public commercial spaces
At ASST, we pride ourselves on providing interior designers and contractors with an innovative system that improves the look and feel of a space, while demonstrating exceptional durability. SCULPTCOR® by ASST is a thermoformed architectural wall panel system that has already proven successful in a number of retail and dining environments. The wall panels are available in three standards patterns: Twist, wave and smooth, and in five standard colors, including: Pure white, cream, warm white, frozen white and white lotus. 

SCULPTCOR is a versatile solution that can be used for wall panels, column covers, retail facades, elevator cladding, casework, ceiling panels and furniture. As a result, an interior designer or contractor looking to outfit a commercial public space can use this fabricated material for a wide range of projects throughout a space. 


Restaurant designers are working hard to incorporate new elements into their spaces, mainly the food. Metropolis Magazine reported that designers who specialize in creating unique restaurant spaces are focusing on using materials and elements that draw directly from the type of food that is being served at the establishment. 

Designing with food in mind
According to Alessandro Munge, a partner with Sai Leung in the Toronto-based studio Munge Leung, restaurant design is dependent upon pairing the plates with the place.

"When that dish hits the table, your enjoyment of that dish also depends on what you sit on and what the table is made of," he said. "It's not just about the food."  

Interior designers are taking inspiration from their local communities and the dishes served in a restaurant to create a unique space. The harmony between dish, place and location is a growing phenomena in urban environments as contractors, architects and designers look for the next great thing in interior design. 

Incorporating durable materials in restaurant design
If an interior designer is looking to incorporate the trend of using elements from the dishes and location of the restaurant in the space, he or she may want to consider using a versatile material that is durable. ASST helps restaurant owners and designers incorporate the right blend of materials to create a modern space with SCULPTCOR®. ASST recently finished the Macy's flagship Herald Square New York City location with a new luxury Italian restaurant, Stella 34 Trattoria. ASST performed the fabrication & installation of SCULPTCOR, with curved thermoformed solid surface upholstered seating booths and walnut millwork waiter stations throughout the new restaurant. Create a unique, modern dining experience by using the right blend of materials. 

The flexibility of SCULPTCOR allows it to be used in a wide range of spaces. Use the fabricated wall panel system to create enclosed enclaves for guests' privacy so that those dining together can be buffered from the sights and sounds of the restaurant and better enjoy each other's company. A textured and colored wall installation can work as a statement wall in a space and set the mood for the rest of the interior design. The aesthetic options are endless with the use of a versatile wall panel solution like SCULPTCOR. 


Creating an inviting restaurant space requires both innovative interior design and excellent cuisine. After all, diners enjoy spending time in restaurants that offer a complete experience. As a result, many restaurant owners are looking to incorporate sophisticated design elements into branding and design of their restaurants.

For example, Retail Design Blog reported that the Tanoon Mai restaurant in Chatswood, Australia, has recently been renovated so that the walls are a mix of indigenous colors, textures and patterns. The fun and funky atmosphere is intended to encourage patrons to feel relaxed and have a fun time.

ASST recently completed work for Macy's flagship Herald Square New York City location with a new high-end Italian restaurant, Stella 34 Trattoria. ASST performed the fabrication & installation of the curved thermoformed solid surface upholstered seating booths as well as walnut millwork waiter stations throughout the new restaurant. Be sure to check out the images of this job on our new website at www.asst.com. Besides the interiors being special, the food has been getting rave reviews in New York Magazine and other publications. Be sure to check it out!


For hotel executives seeking to garner a positive reaction from guests there are more than a few things to consider. What technologies are offered and how soothing is the decor are considerations often at the forefront of everyone's mind, reports Metropolis Magazine. However, ever since the latest revision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), architects who specialize in designing hotels must make sure that every person can enjoy the wonders of their creations. 

Hotel Executive reports that ensuring that even disabled patrons can use hotel facilities and accommodations is especially crucial – not only on a customer service level, but also because the U.S. Department of Justice has been cracking down on ADA violations and scrutinizing hotels. 

When it comes time to renovate or build surface solutions, ASST has the design solutions. For bathrooms, one of the hardest spaces to make ADA compliant, ASST's Modular Vanity System offers the right combination of beauty and practicality. The vanities are highly durable and constructed with a stout polyethylene frame and then covered with an attractive, but tough, solid surface, which is nonporous and discourages the growth of mildew, mold and fungi. This combination of features allows the vanities to not only appear aesthetically pleasing in multiple finishes, but also remain practical for public spaces.

The vanities are wall hung, which decreases wear and tear and allows those who are using wheelchairs or other devices to still get close enough to the sink and other surfaces. For more information on the ASST Modular Vanity System, please visit www.asst.com

As architects and hotel professionals look into renovating or designing a new hospitality space, it's important to consider and weigh design versus compliance options. However, not all choices have to be either or. With the right answer, a designer can achieve the look and feel he or she wants without negatively impacting ADA compliance regulations.