If these walls could talk, it wouldn’t take long to convince visitors they are a signature feature in the renovation and expansion of the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, Charleston, W.Va.

Approximately 74,764 square feet of aluminum composite material (ACM) from Alucoil North America was fabricated and installed as those walls by Shaffner Heaney Associates of South Bend, Ind.

Improvements and expansion were necessary because the original Charleston Civic Center was missing the space to attract significant conventions. Maybe more importantly, it truly lacked the appearance of the architectural community centerpiece it has been transformed to become.

“The original 1950s building and the 1983 addition had become outdated in appearance as well as technologically deficient,” says Rodney Pauley, AIA, project manager for ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston. “We created different entrance nodes and pathways to help visitors reach all parts of the building. We created separate entrances for the coliseum and convention center, one which faces the Charleston Town Center, where a lot of people park for events.

“We updated everything, from the lighting to the WiFi. It’s got everything a state-of-the-art coliseum and convention center should have in today’s market.”

Completing the project took more than 2-1/2 years, in part because it remained open during construction. 

“This job was completed in two phases and the first phase along the east side was about 17,000 square feet,” says Mark Haab, Vice President of Operations at Shaffner Heaney. “So, we kind of eased into it. Phase two was the much bigger part of the job and the experience we had from completing phase one … let’s just say we knew what we were in for. It was a challenging job and we expected many fabricators/installers to pass on bidding this due to the complexity. It was a massive facelift and expansion.”

The new walls of the coliseum and convention center were designed to mirror the mountainous West Virginia terrain. ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston and their design partners, TVS Design of Atlanta, chose to have the ACM panels, measuring three feet by 15 feet, installed horizontally with an array of four similar but distinct colors: Silver Metallic, Silversmith, Champagne Pearl and Champagne Metallic. Alucoil’s ACM is a fully tested and certified, top quality architectural wall cladding panel, providing the strength and flexibility required for the most demanding design criteria.

“It took quite a while to decide on which four colors to use,” says Pauley. “We started with at least 20 colors and narrowed it down to eight. We got some larger pieces and spent days looking at them; looking at them in shade or cloudy conditions and in bright sunshine, trying to determine the best combination.”

The panel reveals were all Classic Black and provided a clean and unique aesthetic. ZMM also included dark diagonal breaks down through the wall panels and reveals to represent the jagged mountains. Sections of ACM between the diagonal lines were pulled out or pushed back at different angles, creating the look of a rock wall. It also created a challenging installation for Shaffner Heaney. Within the diagonal lines is a lighting system than can be adjusted to show virtually any color.

“It was truly an exciting design by ZMM; all returns were at odd angles,” Haab says. “ZMM did a terrific job of maximizing what ACM can do. Not a lot of architects will stick their neck out with such an innovative design. Obviously, this wasn’t a typical monolithic flat wall.

“It took three times as long to install in the way it was designed and there was no way to gain efficiency. There were very few like pieces. We were just relentless about it. It was a tough job to execute, but our staff in design, fabrication and installation did an incredible job.”

Haab believes that Shaffner Heaney working as the fabricator and installer helped keep the project moving along.

Part of the job included working from a barge on the Elk River to complete work on the new ballroom that overlooks the water. A separate entrance area was created for the ballroom area guests to distinguish from the entrance for visitors coming to the coliseum.

Haab says Chuck Moore at general contractor BBL Carlton of Charleston, provided Shaffner Heaney and other subcontractors everything they needed to get the job done – including coordinating the project schedule with access to key areas of the building.