The Chrysalis Emerges: Celebrating the Success of a Powerful Collaboration


A dedication ceremony for the Chrysalis — part sculpture, part amphitheater, part park pavilion — tucked in the woods of Columbia, Maryland, allowed the community and project stakeholders alike to fully experience the structure’s scale and precision firsthand.

The endeavor was shepherded by Michael McCall, President of Strategic Leisure (on behalf of the Inner Arbor Trust), and designed and delivered by A. Zahner Company, Arup, Living Design Lab, THEVERYMANY, Whiting-Turner, and a suite of other talented AEC professionals.

As the Downtown Columbia Partnership observed, “Seemingly no line stands still. Its look is dynamic and flows in a manner of ‘calculated serendipity’.”


Davin Hong, AIA, founder and principal of Living Design Lab, described the Chrysalis as a “once-in-a-lifetime project.” He underscored the necessity of using a virtual design and construction (VDC) platform on such an unconventional project.

“Because of its geometrical complexity, the Chrysalis had to be designed using digital modeling tools. 2D orthographic projections were almost useless,” Hong said.

Tweet: “2D orthographic projections were almost useless” [email protected] #TheChrysalis #3DEXPERIENCE @3DSAEC

Hong also recognized the need for a “unique level of design coordination.”

Accordingly, McCall engaged the renowned fabrication and VDC specialists at Zahner as part of the design team for early collaboration.

Zahner spearheaded the selection and use of the software tools to design and engineer the Chrysalis. The Dassault Systèmes platform was chosen for one key reason: “It simply could not have been done in any other program. 3DEXPERIENCE was the most capable system to handle it,” asserted CEO Bill Zahner.

One reason the project presented such a challenge is that there are no interruptions to the smooth curves making up every surface of the shell, despite the entire façade being comprised of sharp, geometric, aluminum shingles.

Tweet: A complex, but worthwhile fabrication challenge #TheChrysalis #AEC @azahner @THEVERYMANY @3DSAEC


Moreover, the structure presented a complex fabrication challenge. Every component of the outer shell was custom-made. With an array of 44 unique color/shape combinations across 7,700 shingles, each had a precise location.

The parametric modeling and planning tools adopted by the team helped everything come together in perfect alignment.

“If anything didn’t work, you’d notice it. The result here is that everything flows. It works,” Zahner said of the dramatic curved openings observed from the floor of the stage.

Tweet: “If anything didn’t work, you’d notice it” #TheChrysalis #facade @azahner @3DSAEC

Collaboration & Communication

The transfer of model data between project contributors also flowed seamlessly.

The collaborative relationship across the extended project team was clearly advantageous to the delivery process and end result.

“When you start a project, it’s like getting married. You’re committed, but you don’t really know how it will turn out,” said McCall.

“Bill said he could do it, but there were still unanswered questions. The value of the software [ENOVIA on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform], to me, was that I could see his team thinking through and developing each component. I could watch it come together, piece by piece. It gave me a great deal of confidence that things were progressing along the right path.”

“I went online frequently,” McCall continued. “It felt good to peek under the hood. I could see that they were doing their job, and that the Chrysalis was going to look incredible, while the process of getting there was highly credible. It was the best of both worlds for me as the client.”

Using such a detailed 3D model from design through installation delivered benefits both subtle and substantial to the owner, architect, and fabricator.

Zahner’s installation served as both the façade and the architecture itself, so “seeing” it from the inside and out was an atypical requirement.

Plus, the original design didn’t specify what it was supposed to look like from the perspective of the stage. The 3D model facilitated decisions by the owner about the aesthetics along the way.

For one example, aluminum stiffeners with upturned edges were added for structural integrity.

Zahner was able to show the visual effect to McCall and the balance of the team before fabrication began, to ensure the aesthetics would be acceptable to the project owner.

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enabled the team to convey information—from minute detail to the full scale of the performance center’s interior space—to McCall and other project constituents who were intimately involved throughout the project.

The Chrysalis is indeed a success from every angle.

Congratulations from Dassault Systèmes to all involved in bringing this vision to life, and to Columbia, Maryland for becoming the new home of an iconic community asset.

Tweet: #TheChrysalis Emerges: Celebrating the Success of a Powerful Collaboration #3DEXPERIENCE @azahner @3DSAEC

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