In the late 1970s, the Plaza of the Americas was constructed in Dallas, TX. Known as one of the city’s largest developments — covering 2 million square feet of space over 5.5 acres — the mixed-used complex contains office, retail, hotel and conference space inside of two high-rise towers, which are connected by a vast 80,000-square-foot indoor atrium. For many years, the atrium contained an underused ice skating rink and a variety of retail shops, which was recently renovated using Cotto d’Este’s ultra-thin Kerlite tiles to resemble that of a lush garden, in an effort to revive the complex and attract more tenants and visitors.

The adaptive reuse project, which transformed the atrium into a climate-controlled, multi-tiered indoor park that offers increased retail and restaurant opportunities, was a fruitful collaboration between the architectural firm Corgan, the landscape architect and the owners of the property. “The under-performing Plaza was purchased with the intent to reposition the development and increase the office tenancy within the 1.1 million square feet of available office space in the heart of Dallas’ Central Business District,” said Aaron Steward, LEED AP BD+C, of Corgan.

“The idea was to create an urban plaza or ‘park’ that gave the development new life, and increase use of the development during the day and after 5 p.m. The collaboration between the new owners, the landscape architect and the design architect evolved into a tiered indoor park that utilized updated finishes, dramatic landscaping and water features that created a variety of spaces within the vast atrium, which gave a sense of scale and place that was considered barren and devoid of previously.”

To transform the Plaza’s two-level, 80,000-square-foot neglected ice skating rink and retail area, 60,000 square feet of Cotto d’Este’s new Kerlite Plus ultra-thin porcelain stoneware tile was employed on the floors and vertical surfaces — in colors “Carmel,” “Amande” and “White.” The 3.5-mm-thick, large-format tiles are resistant to frost, lighter than ceramic tiles, easy to clean, and don’t absorb odors or liquids — making them the ideal choice for large jobs like this.

INSTALLATION DETAILS

Tile Products: Cotto d’Este Kerlite Plus ultra-thin porcelain stoneware tile — for floors and vertical surfaces — in colors “Carmel,” “Amande” and “White”

Installation Products: Laticrete 254 Platinum, Laticrete Floor Leveling Mortar — both from Laticrete, Bethany, CT

Number of Installers: 10

Installation Time: 14 months

“The decision made during preconstruction to go with the Kerlite tile brought tremendous value to the schedule and budget, and just as important to us, eliminated the logistical nightmare of demoing over 100,000 square feet of existing tile in a 24/7 occupied space,” said Ryan Thompson, president of James R. Thompson, Inc., the general contractor for the project. “I have never encountered a product that could positively impact a project in so many different ways.”

One of the advantages of Kerlite Plus is that it can be installed atop of existing flooring, whether it’s marble, wood or ceramic — eliminating the need for demolition — which was one of the main reasons Corgan chose to use it for the project. “This project encompasses office space, retail and food service, as well as a hotel/convention rooms. Thus, it is a 24-hour facility where both excessive noise and construction dust were unacceptable,” said Steward. “Kerlite Plus thin tile allowed us to install over the existing tile floor without heavy demolition. The project could not have happened without it.”

The tile, which was supplied by Horizon Tile of Dallas, TX, was installed using a thin-set installation by Barry Kemna and his team of 10 installers from Kemna Tile in Dallas, TX. “We used Laticrete 254 Platinum to pre-skim the floors, and then we used it to install the tile,” said Kemna. “That’s their premium thin-set material; the best thin-set product they made. We also used self-leveling products, including Laticrete’s Floor Leveling Mortar.”

The planning for the Kerlite installation had to be closely coordinated with the other trades and the adjacent retail tenants by the general contractor, according to Thompson. “Careful layout was critical to pulling off the desired layout without having a single cut tile,” he said. “With all the fountains, pavilions, decks and other hardscape, this was very challenging as the rough-in dimensions and the overall perimeter measurements had to be perfect. All the layout points in the atrium were shot in with a Total Station to insure accuracy.”

Steward said he and his team didn’t encounter any challenges along the way, since the installation went very smoothly. However, Kemna said his team encountered a couple of minor challenges along the way, which they ultimately adapted to. “We had to insure every tile had 100% coverage, including at the very edges,” he said. “We [also] had a lot of pedestrian traffic to work with because the hotel and office remained open during the construction. So, we worked around it. We put the tile down in one area, and then in two days, we let the traffic walk on that and we blocked off another section and worked on that [so on and so forth]. We let the people walk throughout the area the whole time.”

The renovation of the Plaza of the Americas’ atrium took 14 months to complete, with Steward’s team onsite weekly to supervise construction. “There were unusual conditions where tile would meet up with a mullion or a door threshold, or the floor panel for an escalator,” said Steward. “However, because of the thinness of the tile, we did not really have to create any special field details to address these conditions.”

Since the project’s completion a little over a year ago, it has been very well received. “Everybody absolutely loves it,” said Kemna. “We got a lot of calls about it. They really like the way it came out.”

“[It’s] universally liked,” added Steward. “We have been back from time to time to the building, and each time we are pleased to see the atrium space in wide use by people on their laptops, or having coffee, reading, chatting, and just generally enjoying the space. That was the goal from the beginning.”