Rhawnhurst Elementary School Auditorium Transformation
The project at the Rhawnhurst Elementary School in the School District of Philadelphia was simple: replace the ceiling, mechanical system, and other building finishes within the school’s auditorium. The School District had closed the auditorium to the students and teachers for a better part of two years due to asbestos that was found in the crumbling ceiling. Along with replacing the ceiling, there were some other problems that needed to be addressed, such as, moisture damage to the plaster walls and soffits, a mechanical system that had been decommissioned years ago, and an attic space that was sealed off as part of the containment of the asbestos. Also, during our site visit, comments had been made regarding damage to the brick veneer, which also required work.
The ceiling was a “popcorn” finish plaster barrel vault. The walls were painted plaster, finished with a stained wood wainscot paneling and painted base. The seats were wood with decorative end panels at the end of each row. The flooring in the auditorium had sealed concrete under the seats and vinyl composite tile in the rows and open areas.
The design approach was inspired by the original decorative end panel at the end of the seat rows. Our ceiling design utilized an acoustical-backed floating curved metal panel system that was designed to simulate the former barrel vaulted plaster ceiling. A simple, thin pendent light fixture was used throughout with a matching thin decorative pendent light fixture centered in the cross aisle. These fixtures all hung below the ceiling system, while the new mechanical system was installed above. The wood paneling was cleaned and re-stained, and the wood base repainted. The plaster walls were cleaned, fixed, and painted a lighter, modern color finish. At the top of the plaster wall, new wood trim was installed and stained to match the lower section of the wood panel; this “cleaned up” the top of the plaster wall. A new vinyl composite tile was selected and the brick veneer was patched where needed.
Though this project was simple in concept, the work involved created a dramatic change to the aesthetic and health of the space. We were happy to take the lead in the transformation this auditorium… Now the school is no longer concerned with the dangers of asbestos… And they have a beautiful space that will bring pride to the students & teachers.