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Design in Action: Curved Ceiling Commands Attention

Enhanced Acoustics at New Network Operations Control Center for Southwest Airlines, Dallas

Walking into the Network Operations Control (NOC) center of the Southwest Airlines Training and Operational Support building in Dallas, Texas, is like walking onto the set of a James Bond film, according to architect Andrew Bennett, Principal, BOKA Powell.  

“It’s a very high-tech space for mission-critical business. The sheer size of the control center is impressive. The height and design of the ceiling itself creates a real ‘wow!’ factor for anyone who enters the room. Just walking into it makes people stop and stare,” he says. 

Project: Southwest Airlines Training and Operational Support Building  

Location: Dallas, Texas

Size: 16,000 square feet  

Product: CertainTeed Gyptone® BIG™ Curve  

Performance: Provides an NRC of 0.70, offering remarkable sound absorption  

Architect: BOKA Powell  

Contractor: Baker Triangle 

Designing the Command Center

The NOC center is the heartbeat of the low-fare carrier’s growing air operations: no plane can fly and no crew or maintenance can be scheduled without directives from command center operatives. According to Scott Cherry, who serves as a project manager for Southwest Airlines, several hundred people are working in the center at any given time, each talking to other airlines and agencies as they control flight and ground crew activity. “It’s a very live room, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he explains.  

To ensure a design that would be able to support all this activity and take their high-tech operations into the future, the airline tapped Bennett’s Dallas-based, full-service architecture, planning, and interior design firm BOKA Powell, which has both international design experience as well as intimate knowledge of the architectural needs of its city.

The design task specific to the command center was twofold:  

> to create a beautiful, structurally sound facility  

> to organize employees for more efficient, streamlined work  

Ultimately, what Bennett and his team created was a high-tech bunker that could sustain operations through Texas-size F4 tornados as well as other emergencies. The team designed the interior in a way that expedites communication within and among teams of employees, then went beyond layout to include thoughtful acoustic design. 

Iconic Brand Gives Pulse to Design

Certainly the nature of BOKA Powell’s design task was serious, but Bennett says working with Southwest Airlines and its iconic brand was thoroughly enjoyable. Southwest Airlines maintains an enviable brand that resonates deeply with people who fly the low-fare carrier as well as those who work for it. It has, after all, been ranked by FORTUNE as one of the world’s most admired companies for more than 20 years running, and Forbes ranks it as one of America’s best employers.  

“We tried to think about things expressive of Southwest Airlines. Many of the design elements are curved, reminiscent of wings. We had fun playing with analogies of airflow over wings and how we could capture that in the design. I feel the ceiling really does encapsulate this in an exciting, playful way,” says Bennett.  

Cherry agrees, and notes that the ceiling’s aesthetics and sound absorption are key to the overall design. “It looks good and gets the job done. This ceiling is a real success story.”

CertainTeed Ceilings is part of Saint-Gobain building products and offers high– quality, versatile ceiling products that are pleasing to the eye, the ear, and the mind. Through our unique Environmental Acoustics™ approach, CertainTeed Ceilings enhances performance in any environment. 

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