Burns & McDonnell and PGAV were asked to design the Air Mobility Command Heritage Hall at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. The existing hall consisted of three separate spaces: the two-story outer lobby, mid-lobby and inner lobby.
The two-story outer lobby contains two scale model aircraft from an air refueling endurance event. These are suspended approximately 9 feet above the floor to the underside of the models. These models needed to be the main focus that started the experience for the Heritage exhibits. In order to highlight these models, a suspended gypsum board ceiling to resemble a cloud or curvilinear shape is positioned above. The ceiling cloud is 18 inches lower than the main ceiling and has a blue cold cathode lighting system around the perimeter. This light is reflected onto the higher ceiling area. In addition to the cloud feature, ceramic metal halide fixtures are mounted on wall tracks to illuminate the models from the front, back, underside and top. Some of these fixtures are colored to provide depth and contrast on the model. These design features provide the focus on the models that were needed.
Another major design challenge was to create an exhibit space in the inner lobby that would be conducive to viewing vignettes displaying the heritage of the Air Mobility Command. The existing ceiling height of the space was only 8 feet, 6 inches. The space above the existing ceiling was filled with ductwork and mechanical pipes that could not be relocated. This presented a unique challenge in designing this space with a relatively low ceiling. Normally this type of exhibit space would have a minimum ceiling height of 10 feet.
The solution was to divide the space into several smaller areas and to make the ceiling a non-issue. Each vignette is presented in a “pocket theater” formed by curved walls reminiscent of aircraft fuselages. This subdividing of the space reduces the overall scale of the project by providing more intimate spaces. In addition, the main ceiling was painted black and theatrical lights were installed above the vignettes. This focuses visitor attention on each story.
The existing lobby area features brick walls, which ties into the exterior design of the building. It was decided to leave these brick walls in the outer and mid-lobby areas to maintain the original architectural features unique to the building. The design of the project included new murals on the sidewalls of the outer lobby and timeline panels in the mid-lobby. These were installed on the existing brick walls.
The interiors of the new design complement the building standard finishes. Carpet for the exhibit area and cross corridor is the same carpet is used in the rest of the facility. Paint colors and ceramic tile complement the building standards.
One of the main objectives for the exhibit space design was to create a space adaptable for future displays. The exhibit area allows for changes to the "vignette themes" by providing a flexible and adaptable curved wall system forming the pocket theaters. These can be used as a backdrop structure that will allow different text panels to be installed from the cables mounted in the curved walls. The video presentation can also be changed as needed.
The exhibit space in the inner lobby is the most prominent feature of the project and enabled the story-telling process of the AMC heritage. The exhibit space features:
- "Pocket theaters" with curved walls reminiscent of aircraft fuselage
- State-of-the-art visual presentations mounted in the pocket theaters
- Cable-mounted panels with text and iconic images in the pocket theaters
- Special flooring (strips of metal with black vinyl inserts) in the center of the space that simulate an aircraft floor
- A metal ceiling in the center of the space that reflects the aircraft materials theme
- Aircraft models of the current fleet suspended from the ceiling
- A large globe interactively displaying the major operations and the extent of the global reach of the Air Mobility Command