Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts is the latest addition to the Bard College campus. Featuring a curving roof and structure manufactured by Zahner, the building is nestled amongst the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. 

The performance center was completed in 2003, designed by Frank Gehry Partners. Zahner has been involved with Gehry's firm since the beginning, and has been involved in a number of featured Gehry projects over the years. The Bard College was finished a year after Weatherhead at Case Western, and a year prior to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago. All three were built using Zahner engineering-design, fabrication, and installation.

Photograph of the setting sun on the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photograph of the setting sun on the Fisher Center at Bard College.

Creating the Surface of Fisher Center

Angel Hair stainless steel clads the entire surface of the secondary structure (which was also produced by Zahner, explained below). The stainless steel skins were lapped and fastened using a custom-engineered counter-sunk fastener. The finish of this surface is unlike any other surface in its ability to create muted tones, ambiently reflecting its surroundings.

The Richard B. Fisher Center Performing Arts Center at Bard College.
The Richard B. Fisher Center Performing Arts Center at Bard College.
Photograph of Fisher Center at Bard College Entrance Road.
Photograph of Fisher Center at Bard College Entrance Road.
Detail of the Angel Hair stainless steel surface on the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Detail of the Angel Hair stainless steel surface on the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photographs of the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photographs of the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photograph of the western entrance to the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photograph of the western entrance to the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Detail of the Angel Hair stainless steel surface on the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Detail of the Angel Hair stainless steel surface on the Fisher Center at Bard College.
Detail of the Angel Hair Stainless Steel and structural steel for Fisher Center.
Detail of the Angel Hair Stainless Steel and structural steel for Fisher Center.

Designing, Fabricating, and Installing with ZEPPS Technology

Working in CATIA and Pro-Engineer and utilizing Gehry Partners master model, Zahner developed a workable surface using the ZEPPS Technology to form the walls and roof of this dynamic set of structures.

Using the dual-curving panels made possible by ZEPPS eliminates several construction steps because it requires no additional supports or finishing due to its exclusively structural aluminum components. Over 3,200 stainless sheets were installed on top of 710 unique ZEPPS assemblies — each panel interlocks with the next to form the dynamic but uniform surface of the roof and sides.

Using the ZEPPS assemblies allowed the entire EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems) wall and glazing to be embedded in the dual curving forms. This provided options for the interior wall surfaces of the building to closely mirror the exterior of the building. Along with EIFS walls and glazing, Zahner's system formed the entire roof, wall and much of the building envelope for the performing arts center.

The panels consist of a high strength aluminum frame structure profiled to form the shape desired by the architect. Per the architect's request, the interior side of the panel was left uncovered to expose the intricate framing members.

Fabricating the Fisher Center stainless steel and aluminum panels at A. Zahner Company in Kansas City.
Fabricating the Fisher Center stainless steel and aluminum panels at A. Zahner Company in Kansas City.
History of Fisher Center: The Design Team looks at the dual curvature metal panel system at A. Zahner Company Headquarters | Bard College student sign 'Make huge silver crumpled buildings, not war.'
History of Fisher Center: The Design Team looks at the dual curvature metal panel system at A. Zahner Company Headquarters | Bard College student sign 'Make huge silver crumpled buildings, not war.'
A. Zahner Company field crew install the panels at Bard College.
A. Zahner Company field crew install the panels at Bard College.
Construction photo of the south entrance of the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College.
Construction photo of the south entrance of the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photo of the south entrance of the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photo of the south entrance of the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College.
Photographs of the Fisher Center building and landscape.
Photographs of the Fisher Center building and landscape.
Interior and exterior of Fisher Center, viewed through the massive glazing system on the front entrance.
Interior and exterior of Fisher Center, viewed through the massive glazing system on the front entrance.

The Bard College canopy is the first design by Frank Gehry Partners to leave the ZEPPS understructure exposed, a decision made to celebrate the complex construction that goes into buildings.

The engineers at Zahner and the architects at Gehry's office enjoy a dynamic working relationship that continues to evolve and push the boundaries of what is possible to design and build. Learn more about how Gehry's team works with Zahner to build complex buildings.