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A bold tribute to rock

Cleveland's Hard Rock Rocksino celebrates music, past and future.

By Henry Burke

Around the world, there are few brands as well recognized as Hard Rock. The iconic logo immediately conjures a familiar atmosphere. Over time, Hard Rock International has grown far beyond its restaurants and popular T-shirts. In recent years, hotels and casinos have become a central part of the Hard Rock family of properties.

For the first in a line of "Rocksinos" that would offer visitors a mix of gaming and music, Hard Rock went to the legendary home of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland, Ohio. Built in nearby Northfield Park and opened in December 2013, the Hard Rock Rocksino was designed around an arena rock theme. While it clearly reflects the heritage of its surroundings in Ohio, the Rocksino also provides an atmospheric template for similar properties to come.

"Hard Rock International is very specific with what they determine to be 'the Hard Rock vibe,'" explains David Bowen, principal at Cleveland-based Richard L. Bowen + Associates, the architect of record on the Hard Rock Rocksino. "It's a certain feeling. Their focus is delivering an aesthetic and creating that feeling you get when you go into a Hard Rock."

It's a feeling that has evolved over time, says Michael Mangini, design director for Atlantic City–based SOSH Architects, the design architect and interior designer on the project. SOSH has a longstanding relationship with Hard Rock International and was brought on at the concept stage. "Hard Rock is a powerful brand, but it is not a brand that is stuck in the past," Mangini says. "With the Rocksino project, we're celebrating the continuation of that brand into the modern age."

Culture of Cleveland

Along with embodying the Hard Rock International brand, the new Rocksino also was intended to represent the local ethos. "We wanted to celebrate the local vernacular and culture of the location," Mangini says. The design team began their work with extensive research on the Cleveland area and Ohio and the people who live there. "We tried to celebrate the history of music from the Cleveland perspective. There was a lot of local collaboration that influenced the design directly."

Materiality played a big role in achieving the modern, hip aesthetic of the Rocksino, and metal was a big part of the visual feel. The project utilizes CENTRIA's MetalWrap™ Series insulated composite backup panels behind masonry, single-skin concealed fastener metal panels, and metal composite material (MCM) panels.

"[Metal] was definitely a part of the aesthetic," Bowen says. "The material, the glazing, the lighting, and everything else all worked together to give visitors the impression that they are walking into a special place with a rocking vibe." Using metal in combination with other materials was key to achieving the design goals. "Basically, casinos can just be boxes, and we didn't want that. The changing of materials really adds to the interest. Coming down the processional to the Porte Cochere into the entrance of the building, you can feel the vibe out on the street."

Right on time

Though the Rocksino had grand aesthetic goals, a fast-tracked schedule meant that the design and construction team had to work closely together and keep speed in mind.

"The duration of the project spanned one year from design to the ribbon cutting, so the schedule was very aggressive," Mangini recalls. "It was a really intense year and an all-hands-on-deck experience, but the relationship between SOSH and Hard Rock allowed us to work together smoothly."

For a project where speed and appearance were both of the essence, a metal wall system was an ideal solution. Its ability to install quickly helped the design and construction team keep with the tight schedule.

Getting warmer

Metal's ability to take on color also proved to be a major advantage.

"The chairman of this facility had a very specific attention to detail when it came to having the building have a certain warmth to it," Mangini says. "We went through at least a half a dozen full-scale metal panel mockups to really nail the color and texture from the blocked metal panel. Every detail was mocked up before we pulled the trigger."

CENTRIA's innovative Allusion print coating system enabled the panels to achieve just the right finish. "It gave us a great outcome," Bowen says. "It accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. Metal was a great material to work with and it gave us that Hard Rock vibe on the exterior of the building. And from an installation standpoint, it went up very fast."

In operation now for more than a year, the Hard Rock Rocksino has earned rave reviews from the owners and local residents. It remains a draw and has brought new vibrancy to the community.

"I am proud of the property and what it means to the community there," Mangini says. "Northfield is a working class community and the partnership between Hard Rock and the town has brought jobs and new life to the area. It has sparked a lot of interest, a lot of employment opportunities, and the community has done a great job. I think it's leading to conversations about a possible expansion. It was a thrill to work on this project and wonderful to see what it’s brought to the area."

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