UTLC Ceiling

Lit Panel
UTLC Ceiling
By Elliott Disner, Shannon Iafrate and Anthony Kadzban

When approaching the design for the ceiling, the group immediately set forth the rule that the existing space needed to inform the design; the ceiling needed to complement the space, not fight it or simply occupy it. Recognizing it is underdeveloped and intruded by surrounding common areas, the first decision responds to the needs of the space. A solution that can increase intimacy and decrease cross traffic noise was reached by implementing a responsive ceiling that lowers the head height and absorbs noise. The next decision was the concept to utilize a system comprised of multiple panels that react as a form to the space parameters. The shape of the panel was determined by the existing space as the glass block wall, adjacent acoustical ceiling and carpet all utilize similar geometry. In order to maintain balance with the existing space, a square was chosen as the panel shape.


A large part of the design process was spent prototyping the fabrication of panels. To maximize sound absorption, a double layered system was selected. Each module is comprised of a perforated wood panel (layer one) to diffuse unwanted sound waves and backed by felt (layer two) to absorb the sound waves. A large amount of time was spent sourcing felt, testing the size of the perforations, and exploring joints to connect the felt to the back of the panels. Many prototypes were created and discarded for weak joints or inefficiency in either assembly, mill time or material waste. The most effective solution pushed the corners into four perforations and secured in place using a friction fit dowel connection.

Once the individual panel was designed, the focus was the overall form. The main considerations of the existing space were the shape, recessed lighting, fire suppression system, and function of the space. The varying heights of the ceiling respond to the needs of sound absorption and intimacy. The movement and wrapping of the shape responds to the subtle widening of the space and the overhead fire suppression system. To maintain clearance, the form wraps around over three foot-diameter that encompasses the sprinkler head. A Grasshopper script including these parameters was written to facilitate efficiency in generating the layout and panel size. With the panel and form shapes solidified, the panel size was determined by the individual panel and the overall form. The size and spacing parameters were adjusted to find an ideal solution that minimized the amount of panels without compromising the overall form.

Overall Day

The jig was developed by being cognizant of both efficiency and design. A minimalist look ensures the impact of the design is felt through the panels (joined to dowels with a single nail), while a simple glued connection between the dowel and jig panels was thought to maximize installation efficiency. The jig is fractured into smaller puzzle pieces that form a whole, allowing for a manageable installation and allow for the passage of light and water. The jig also minimizes impact on the existing ceiling, as it is installed with two inch corner brackets, one flange attached to the metal stud, the other receiving a bolt on which the jig rests. This allows the installation to be removed so the space can be returned to its former state.

As a result of numerous prototypes, the fabrication process went relatively smooth. The construction of the panels was repetitive production and any issues had been worked out in the prototyping stage. An unforeseen issue, due to not being able to prototype the installation process, occurred when flipping the assembled jig panels. The dowel-to¬-jig joint was strong in compression or tension, but the joint was not strong enough to hold against the torque experienced when flipped. The solution involved drilling the pocket hole completely through the jig, inserting the dowel through the hole, and fixing a small finish nail sideways through the dowel which acts as a pin, prohibiting the dowel from moving back through the hole. This creates a strong joint against compression, tension and shear forces. Following the modification of the joints, the panels were inserted with minimal issues. After the installation was complete, the panels were straightened, the space was cleaned, leaving only the final installation.

Glass Block

Panel Field

Overall Night

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