THE CHALLENGE – CREATE A PARKING GARAGE FACADE WITH A SAILING THEME
Chicago’s Northwestern University was constructing a $35 million lakeside sailing and visitor center, topped with a two-story car parking facility. To conceal the vehicles within the elevated garage, two of the walls were tinted glass. For the remaining sides, the design brief called for a facade with a sailing theme that made a signature statement, while augmenting the building’s striking architectural features.
THE SOLUTION – CUSTOM-SHAPED SAILS TO DEPICT A WAVE OF WATER
PTFE membrane was used to create 94 thin-width vertically curved fabric panels set at right angles to the building. Alternate panels curved towards or away from the building. For the outward curving panels, their point of maximum extension varied in height above the ground, creating a waveform along the entire length of the structure.
Our work included design collaboration, engineering the sails and their structural support, fabrication of PTFE and fiberglass components, and installation. Each frame had multiple attachment points and their location involved intensive collaboration with the contractor. Careful planning in the final tensioning was also crucial to avoid overstressing the frames. Finally, installing the membrane panels multiple stories above ground required masterful coordination and cooperative weather.
“The fins on the east facade have a pronounced curve that endows that side of the building with a striking, wave-shaped pattern that is an unexpected delight for passing pedestrians and cyclists.” – Chicago Tribune
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