Mosaic Village Adds to Jazz Aesthetic in Charlotte’s West End

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When Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, North Carolina, was making plans for a new dormitory to add to its student housing, the University’s role as “a private institution with a public purpose,” was foremost in planners’ minds. The University selected a site in Charlotte’s historic West End as the dorm’s location, and set about creating a new mixed-use space that would drive revitalization in the neighborhood and bring students together with the outside community.

To help it fulfill this goal, the University worked with Charlotte-based Neighboring Concepts, a “multidisciplinary design group of professionals working together to create, enhance and connect communities through smart design and responsible planning.” Architect Daniel McNamee drew inspiration from the West End’s historic association with jazz and the nearby Excelsior Club—one of the oldest continuously running jazz venues in the country—to concept the new structure, Mosaic Village.

McNamee’s design features a brick façade mixed with colorful metal panels from Kingspan and Morin arrayed at varying depths as well as a cement fiber paneling in green to complement the look. The Kingspan metal panels, DW2000, were painted with Valspar’s Fluropon coating in Ultra-Cool Breakwater Blue, which added brilliance and vitality to the structure. In addition, to give depth to the façade, a Morin Single Skin Panel was coated in Gray. Valspar’s Fluropon coatings contain 70% PVDF resins resulting in outstanding protection against dirt and staining as well exceptional color consistency and retention.

“The primary challenge was to take a residence hall, a building type that typically has a lot of overbearing repetition, and compose a dynamic design that tells the story of the historic West End through a connection with jazz music,” said McNamee. “We chose the colors to mirror the rhythm and pattern of jazz music. The gray color was chosen to represent the staff of music, it is consistent and a necessity, but it’s the notes that make it come to life. We chose Valspar’s Fluropon coating in Ultra-Cool Breakwater Blue to act as the notes of the music,” McNamee added. “The colors are complementary, but bold, and help break up the elevation, creating captivating notes to provide an accent for the rhythm of the building.”

Completed in 2012, the 124,000-square-foot structure includes two-, four- and five-bedroom student apartments for a total of 300 tenants. Each level includes lounges and study rooms to bring students together, and the main lobby features a fitness room, game room and computer lab.

To add energy and engage the outside community in the building, the street level features 7,500 square feet of retail space that is open to the public, including a barber shop, convenience store and express restaurant. A rooftop garden on top of the public garage gives visitors a sweeping view of the city’s uptown skyline.

A representative of the metal panel supplier, Kingspan, explained that use of the insulated and single element metal wall panels enabled the creation of crisp corners for a clean look, and also facilitated fast installation—a key benefit for the small work site on a busy street.

At the building’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx called Mosaic Village “a down payment on the future,” and highlighted the excitement surrounding the University’s new addition to the community.

JCSU is understandably proud of its new structure and architectural achievement, and boasts on its website, “The rhythmicprogression of the building pulls from the jazz aesthetic and its improvisational yet structured nature. Astudy of how the layers of music can inform and compose the layers of architecture produces an arrayof breaks, riffs, vamps, bridges, and improvs in physical form. Following these rules from the realm ofjazz, the public and physical realm of Mosaic Village becomes an architectural composition thatrespects its history, while chartering a new path for the Historic West End Community.”

In its summation of the project, Neighboring Concepts stated, “Gazing at a mosaic, it isnearly impossible to comprehend theamount of time and precision requiredto create the natural blending ofelements that result in the finalimage. Individually the pieces may appeardisjointed, yet when placed togetherthe result is incredible.”

Johnson C. Smith University of Charlotte, NC – Mosaic Village; http://www.jcsu.edu/about/mosaic-village