An empty dirt lot that was used as a seasonal pumpkin and Christmas tree farm in Chula Vista, Calif., was transformed from an eye sore into an inviting space for the community to enjoy. The Wellness & Aquatic Center at Southwestern College is a new 75,000-square-foot facility that is clad with Dri-Design’s Perforated Imaging Panels and standard Dri-Design Wall Panels. While this combination is not unique, the hieroglyph designs perforated in the panels are. Dri-Design used the writings (drawings) made by a university professor to create ancient Maya hieroglyphic symbols in its perforated metal panels. The repetitive pattern illustrates "first," "health" and "cool."

“Probably only a handful of people can read the language in these panels,” says Brad Zeeff, president of Dri-Design. “But the aesthetic captivates everyone with the perforated shadow boxes that are illuminated at night.”

The center features 5,700 square feet of Perforated Imaging Panels and 2,500 square feet of standard Dri-Design Wall Panels in Champagne Bronze color. Metal panels were selected by architect Genlser to create a playful and inviting exterior, breaking down the large scale of the structure. Dri-Design was brought to the table by installer Letner Roofing, Orange, Calif.

“I have worked with Dri Design in the past on similar projects with solid panels,” says Jim Ludwig, project manager for the Sheet Metal Division of Letner Roofing. “I reached out to Dri Design to present the panels to the architect for approval. We met with Gensler, and we had approval to use the product the same day.”

Letner Roofing’s team, led by Superintendent Jaime Nuflo and Foreman Kevin Wright, established the bottom horizontal dimension above the finished floor. Then the panel base J trim was installed by stacking the panels and fastening them to the horizontal girt lines that were placed 4-feet on-center. For the shadow box affect with back lighting, the perforated panels were installed 18 inches off the building face with the use of welded tube steel outriggers, 14-gauge vertical zee girts and 16-gauge horizontal hat channels. Although this support system was challenging, the team got it right and the affect is impressive.  

“I like the simplicity of the panel design and that fasteners are only required across the top horizontal edge of the panel because the bottom of the panel simply lock into the top of the lower panel,” Ludwig adds.

The $52-million center includes a competitive gymnasium, fitness labs, cardio-workout rooms, training and testing rooms, offices, locker rooms and multipurpose exercise rooms with two Olympic-sized swimming pools and a 25-meter therapy pool.

For more information about the Dri-Design Wall Panel System, visit