The Philadelphia Theatre Company's dynamic Marquee signage

Completed in 2007, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre was designed by KieranTimberlake and features signage manufactured by Zahner. 

Named for the former actress, playwright, and director, Suzanne Roberts Theatre is part of the initiative to enhance Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts. The building's new marquee signage provides a striking statement about the quality of the arts program while maintaining the existing building and providing cover as an entrance soffit. 

Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.

KieranTimberlake contracted Zahner to provide engineering and fabrication for the dynamic shape of the facade signage. Working through an intitial Design Assist phase, the project was developed for digital fabrication. 

To produce the sculptural form, the marquee was engineered and fabricated using ZEPPS Technology, a patented system for building complex, curving sculptural forms. The technology enables fast installation, installed in just a few assemblies. Each assembly is made up of structural aluminum fins and ribs which are prefabricated in the Zahner facility offsite. These assemblies were then clad in a number of sheet metal skinned surfaces. KieranTimberlake worked with Zahner to select a iridescent stainless steel surface which provides the sign's unique coloring.

Related Post

A Fabricators Perspective

A Fabricators Perspectivepublished: January 08, 2010“Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to it original dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell HolmesOver the last decade, the design, engineering and construction industry has been working to integrate digital technology into the process of construction. Like a growing leak in the dike of ingrained conventions, the integration of digital technology is dissolving the barriers that slow down the building process. Companies that do not embrace this technology will be overwhelmed by the shift that is occurring. Older traditions that often act to slow the process or confine the process need to be revised or eliminated. If preformed correctly, the information is significantly more accurate and robust. Litigious concerns for who is responsible for checking or validation are less and less an impediment.At Zahner, we work with the surface of a structure or object. The geometry, patterns, materials, the way a surface performs and the way the surface reflects light is what we involve ourselves with.We digitally define the surface we are creating for the structure because of the benefit to quality and accuracy. The geometry, surface patterns and interfaces are all defined digitally on the solid model we create.Much of what we model is parametric. We define certain relationships of the integrals that make up the finished part or construct. These relationships include the methods of attachment back to the structure as well as define interface requirements.We integrate our process of defining the surface into a kanban or signaling system for the fabrication of the part. Kanban is a tenant of Lean Manufacturing processes. Lean Processes integrate very well with digital definition and demand fluid information transfer. Certain knowledge is consistent in our processes and the various parts that make up the finished product arrive together prior to the final assembly. One piece of paper, usually containing dimensional values and an image, are utilized as a quality check. Other than that, the information is al contained in digital files utilized by the fabrication equipment to define parts and assemblies.All of this is internal, sort of the blood flow of the factory / engineering interface. It insures that what we fabricate is what we intend on placing on the structure. We can be more accurate than ever before. On the product floor, our supervisors can call up images of the model to evaluate the information on the model before we produce the product if needed.Basic ProcessWe receive the digital model from the designer. We then create a digital model that is an exact overly of the designer’s model. The model we create is transformed into a parametric surface. The parametric surface incorporates information needed to drive the fabrication of our product. Proprietary algorithms are introduced to generate framing fastener layouts, individual surface elements and other information needed to construct the finish surface. Often the algorithms relate to other parametric relationships in a part, such as hidden surfaces, chips, and sometimes various fabrication techniques.With our model we incorporate seam locations, flashings, interface connections and other information necessary to show the designer what it is we intend on providing and how we are going to provide it.Details are created on AutoCAD or other, non parametric systems often created directly for the parametric model. These are informational files that provide section information, about the various parts. They are keyed off a ‘snap shot’ of a particular elevation. The designer, general contractor and other specialty contractors use theses details as reference information. The designer requires us to convert the digital parametric model to IGS or DXF for their use. The designer’s original digital model remains as the master for comparison. It is often housed at a managed server location.What might the future hold-Once the designer and the fabricator/constructor were much closer tied. The world was smaller, simpler then and one major project may have occupied much of a lifetime. Eventually, strict divisions of construction developed and risk transfer moved up there with quality and service as on of the primary focuses of the industry. All of a sudden we began building simple boxes out of rectangular components defined by these divisions. Complexity was risky. The structure was made of steel and bolted in straight lines by one division of labor. The cladding is attached to the structure in rectilinear components by yet another. Dignified guilds with apprentice inculcation disappeared and were replaced by semiskilled workers, lacking passion in what they were producing.It is hard to get passionate over a box.The connection between the designer and the fabricator today are being regenerated. The ability to model shape and form and then to transfer them to the manufacturing floor is introducing art back into fabrication process. You can see it in the eyes of those that work in the process. Being part of creativity is fun and satisfying. We have construction workers now wanting to work for us because of the challenges of creating these complex forms. We work closely with the designer. The goals are quality and efficiency.There is a blurring of the traditional divisions. Integrated skin with structure to create efficient and interesting surfaces can now be produced.The designer has a new style of paintbrush to paint with. Some of the shackles are being removed and the potential is expanding.

Detail of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Detail of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
CAD Diagrams showing individual Zahner assembly parts
CAD Diagrams showing individual Zahner assembly parts
Suzanne Roberts Theatre
Suzanne Roberts Theatre
ZEPPS structure for Suzanne Roberts Theatre prior to cladding
ZEPPS structure for Suzanne Roberts Theatre prior to cladding
ZEPPS structure, clad in stainless steel skin with adhesive protective layer
ZEPPS structure, clad in stainless steel skin with adhesive protective layer
Two assemblies made using ZEPPS in the Zahner yard prior to shipment to Philadelphia
Two assemblies made using ZEPPS in the Zahner yard prior to shipment to Philadelphia
Detail of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.
Detail of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia.