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A school auditorium that services both junior high and senior high populations should be designed for performance—and that doesn’t refer only to what happens on the auditorium stage. The physical space must be designed to perform well under nearly constant and demanding use of students, faculty, and anyone who utilizes the environment.

That was certainly the approach the design team from Ashley McGraw Architects took when leading the renovation of the auditorium of LaFayette Junior/Senior High School in LaFayette, New York. The team prioritized the technical performance of all elements of the auditorium’s design—including the all-important surfacing materials that also had to meet the right standards for aesthetics and style.

The LaFayette renovation project, which began in October 2015, was comprised of several elements: demolition of the old finishes, new framing, specification of updated finishes and wall treatments, and the installation of new house and theatrical lighting, as well as a sound system for the facility.

From the start of the project, the design team knew that an environment created for students in junior and senior high school required long- and hard-wearing material specifications in order to endure the wear-and-tear that was sure to come as soon as the space was open for use. In addition, ease of cleaning was high on the list of priorities. On the aesthetics front, members of the team sought to create a look that fit the grander scale of the space and provided a style that would last for many years for the school.

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A very prominent design element of the auditorium is the wainscoting along the walls. For designing this high profile feature, members of the design team focused on creating a monolithic appearance with minimal grout joints—all while adhering to the stringent technical requirements for the space. To answer those needs, they selected Crossville’s Laminam Travertino Avorio 3+.

With its design-forward appeal and rectified edges, Laminam by Crossville was an obvious shoe-in to enact the design team’s vision; the product was to be installed in a lengthwise fashion above the handrail, imparting a warm travertine look in the space. In addition, the material is not only easily cleaned and durable but resistant to the sort of intense abuse that students might throw its way

The installation team at Integrated Industrial Services had learned the techniques for proper installation of Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels by attending an in-house seminar held by distributor Vestal Tile in January 2016. Representatives from adhesives manufacturer Ardex Americas, European Tile Masters, and Vestal Tile led the educational demonstration, teaching the correct process from start to finish, including cutting, drilling, application of thinset mortar, and positioning on a substrate using proper tools and techniques. Integrated Industrial Services put its new knowledge to use almost immediately when it was hired to complete the LaFayette Junior/Senior High School project.

On site, the challenge became one of layout and alignment. The LED cove lighting would rake across the wall, highlighting the joints, so planar alignment was critical and where an installer would typically use the floor as a guide upon which to square-up a wainscot, in this case, the auditorium’s slope towards the stage rendered it ineffective in this capacity. Once an alternative solution was found, however, the installation process went off without a hitch. “The Laminam porcelain panels were easy to cut, and cut very accurate[ly],” reports a representative of Integrated Industrial Services.

The project, completed in April 2016, provides the students of LaFayette Junior/Senior High School with a lovely and functional auditorium that will perform for years to come.