While trends create buzz, historical designs that are timeless leave a lasting impression. Hotel Eleo at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville is attracting attention with its design references to a master plan that French architect Le Corbusier created for Algiers in the 1930s. Le Corbusier’s proposed vertical architecture was courageous at the time because it surrounded structures by shared green space, and it has inspired architects ever since.

Hotel Eleo sits near the UF campus and UF Health Heart & Vascular and UF Health Neuromedicine hospitals. Design architect Alfonso Architects, Tampa, was tasked to create something special that departed from the brick buildings typically seen on hospital and college campuses. That variation led to the selection of Weathering Steel wall panels from Dri-Design. The structure, surrounded by green space, welcomes guests and offers respite from visiting loved ones at the hospitals. 

Walker Architects Inc., Gainesville, served as the project architect. “We love hotels, especially boutique hotels, and the ability to come in and be very diverse with materials. It was a great opportunity to be able to present some alternate ideas, from a material standpoint, that show you can do some really interesting contextual buildings but not have to conform to such a strict gothic brick vernacular,” says Cuyler L. Hendricks, AIA, an architect with Alfonso Architects.

N-RG Cladding, Apopka, Fla., installed 32,000 square feet of 16-gauge Weathering Steel wall panels from Dri-Design. Like all Dri-Design panels, there are no sealants, gaskets or butyl tape in the panel joints. This means there are no dirty streaks or maintenance associated with the panels. The weathering steel forms a natural patina layer, which is visually rich and protects the steel from further corrosion.

Hendricks notes, “We chose the steel because of the warmth and tonality. We also selected it because it is a self-healing material, and once it reaches its full patina, it is maintenance free. Aluminum panels need to be properly cleaned and repainted throughout their lifespan, whereas steel does not need this maintenance. Copper would have been another great choice, but we went with steel because of its cost.”

Yuri Melnicheko, chief operating officer of N-RG Cladding, has worked with Dri-Design panels in the past, and he appreciates the simplicity of the wall panel systems with their straightforward installation plans. Florida, however, requires an added installation step to meet building code requirements for hurricane-force winds. N-RG Cladding secured the panels with additional clips that are used to tie the system together to increase the wall panel system’s load requirements. Dri-Design Wind Load Clips are used when vertically oriented panels are installed. Because Dri-Design systems only attach at the top, a 12-inch wide by 120-inch tall panel needs the additional clips on the sides to secure the panel in place.

While the clip installation was not a complicated step for N-RG Cladding, meeting the requirements of the building’s curve was. Melnicheko says, “The curve of the building has a snake profile. The panels start on one side and do not wrap around the building; they reveal to the curtainwall. We also had to keep the elevation constant on the curve wall during installation.” 

The heat gain that is common in Florida, especially from south facing windows, also had to be addressed. Hendricks says, “People don’t really think about it, but the building also responds very much to sun patterns and is conscious of energy usage. In Florida, you can open up to the north but have to protect the south. By limiting the glass on the south through the usage of punched openings versus a completely glass north façade—I think that was an important idea.”

Hotel Eleo is a six-story, 120,000-square-foot structure with 173 rooms, a bar and lounge area, and fitness room. The building wraps around Rush Lake and includes a water-front park and walking paths. While designed for healing and hospital patients’ families, the hotel also can host weddings and meetings in its event spaces. The hotel adopted hospital-like cleaning standards with a focus of keeping visitors healthy so they can return to their loved ones at the hospitals. This includes contactless door openings and an electrostatic sprayer for sanitizing certain areas. 

“Alfonso architect has created an architecturally significant structure that many will look to for design inspiration,” says Tyler Fowler, national sales director at Dri-Design. “The material selection was integral to the feel and longevity of the building. The steel has already created its patina with a deep orange texture that lends itself to the timeless transformation of the hotel.” 

For more information about the Dri-Design® Wall Panel System, call 616-355-2970 or visit www.dri-design.com.