Impactful Entry Space: McCamish Pavilion

In this Impactful Entry Space blog series, we will feature a designer or artist that has created an attention-grabbing design for the main lobby space of a building. Drawing inspiration from completed entry spaces around the world, we travel beyond the image by diving into the design process and concepts behind it.

Today, we feature our interview with Whitney Williams of Populous Architecture about the lobby design of McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.


GPI Design: What did the lobby space mean to the building as a whole?

Whitney Williams: In most of our projects, we like to create a front door for the building. Given the scale of these buildings, this one in particular where it houses approximately 8,500 people on a game day, so we think it is important to create a front door for the building both from an aesthetic stand point from campus and also an organizational/functional stand point for when people are entering the event. It is the first impression of the building and we wanted a “wow” factor to give people a certain experience that they didn’t have prior to the building being renovated.


GPI: What were your functional and conceptual goals for the lobby?

Williams: Functionally, we want to make sure that we have enough square footage per person because people are all entering the game at the same time and leaving the game. Planning for the quantities of many people entering the space at one time, we want to make sure that we disperse the amenities and entry points and ticket windows and things in a way that makes sense so were not bottle-necking people in any certain spot. It was important to have a good flow in that space.

Conceptually, we salvaged the old basketball court and stored it during construction and so we used that throughout the arena and we used it in way finding in a lot of the signage. And so the concept for the ceiling, which I think has a big impact on the space, was to match the existing basketball court that we were using.


GPI: How did you use specific design tools such as color, form, materials and lighting to create the space?

Williams: With the old arena, the concourse was completely closed, it was carpeted so you had to go through wooden doors to get into the bowl to view the game. This was a complete transformation of the space and we wanted it to feel like a sporting event and be active and lively the minute that you walked into the front door. And you do, when you walk into the entry you see a glimpse of the floor board at center court and we exposed all of the steel structure from the original building and we really played on those elements. We painted all of the steel a very dark color so that was dramatic. We kept all of the other finishes fairly raw because the structure is so interesting that we wanted to highlight that. Same with the lighting, it’s a very simple palette but it’s very impactful. And using the wood we also detailed the lit hall of fame with certain players with detailed wood around that. We wanted to pay close attention to detail with wood and graphics but generally it is a very neutral palette right when you walk in.


GPI: What was the biggest constraint by turning this design into a reality?

Williams: On every job that any architect and contractor work on, it is probably time and budget. Especially with a renovation, you just never know exactly what you’ll run into when you tear down a wall or take down a ceiling; you definitely run into some things along the way that you may not have planned for.


GPI: What makes this space impactful?

Williams: I think its location on campus. It is on the north east corner of campus and that has a lot to do with it because it is one of the first things you see when coming off of the interstate. The exterior is beautiful and the curved glass wall is very impactful as you walk in – as is the wood on the ceiling (which is actually a metal to look like wood). On game day, there is an energy. Getting a glimpse of the center court and being able to hear the audio and visual systems and lighting all together, I think it is exactly what we wanted in creating a dramatic space.


Many thanks to Whitney for sharing the design inspiration for this lobby space. Stay tuned to our next Impactful Entry Space interview coming up in two weeks. For more visual inspiration, follow our Impactful Entry Space board on Pinterest.

Image credits: Archinect, Populous