March 1, 2009
A porous metal screen elevates the parking garage to a thing of beauty.
To the long list of societal ills you can blame on the car—sprawl, smog, Smokey and the Bandit II—be sure to add the parking garage, one of modern man’s most infelicitous creations. The blocky concrete structures tend to be dark and scary on the inside, out of scale and ugly from without. A recent project in Oklahoma City, however, breaks the mold. On the corporate campus of Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation’s largest natural-gas producers, the architect Rand Elliott has managed to house almost 800 cars in a four-story facility that looks nothing like the typical oil-stained eyesore.
His success lies in the facade, a woven-metal mesh by the German manufacturer Haver & Boecker. For this project, Elliott designed a custom weave that is dense enough to conceal vehicles from outside viewers—the garage looks more like a sleek office building than a car park—yet has enough open space to allow for adequate air circulation (as required by code) and admit natural light.
The brushed-stainless-steel mesh is also highly reflective, which Elliott says makes the building feel less massive. “This material really does take on the color and movement of the sky,” he says. “On any given day you can look up at this mesh, and the line separating the building top and the sky almost disappears.” Things become even more captivating at dusk, when the west-facing “sunset wall” picks up a rich palette of purples, pinks, and yellows. “That’s the side that faces campus,” Elliott says, “so if you’re walking from campus to the parking garage, you have a light show at sunset. It’s spectacular. The building is very much alive.”
Three-eighths-inch-wide strips of stainless steel woven into rectangular panels
Haver & Boecker’s mesh panels can be used for building facades, acoustic ceilings, and a variety of interior enclosures.
The custom weave is 25 percent open, which provides for natural ventilation and daylighting while concealing parked cars.
Haver & Boecker
W. S. Tyler