As part of the scope for the Connecticut State Office Building renovation in Hartford, the architect needed to design a 1000-parking-space, mixed-use parking garage to replace a dilapidated 450-space parking garage and service station. The design team chose structural precast concrete for its inherent material appearance, fire resistance, durability, and plasticity of design expression.
Initially, the design concept called for an all–precast concrete garage structure with a separate, attached facade of architectural precast concrete panels; however, this approach exceeded the budget. Therefore, the design team worked with the precast concrete producer to integrate structure and skin into a “waffle spandrel panel” facade. These panels combine the structural column and structural function of a spandrel with the building’s skin to create a single, fully integrated unit.
By combining a modular approach to formwork and casting with the flexibility of precast concrete as a building material, the designers also achieved an expression of monumentality and variation in the garage’s facade.
The final design features full-height waffle spandrel panels of white precast concrete, which serve both structural and aesthetic purposes. The six levels of panels float above two levels of recessed spandrels, lightening the presence of the massive structure.
Designed as a Vierendeel truss, the spandrels create a perfect blend of structural performance and architectural effect for project. This innovation not only captured the form and finish of the unique design concept but also provided a great deal of efficiency in time and cost.
The precast concrete producer eliminated sections of the molding with each pour, which allowed for the creation of unique but repetitive facade panels that create a dimensional and playful texture along the main elevations of the garage. Designed to blend seamlessly into Hartford’s stately historic architecture, the finished exterior of the garage features a 100% white cement mixture along with a light sandblasted finish that matches neighboring limestone buildings.
Both structure and facade elements were sourced, fabricated, and shipped locally, which saved time and lowered the project’s embodied carbon footprint. And by eliminating architectural precast concrete from the project, the team saved 34% in facade costs and an entire trade was taken out of the construction scheduling.
The end result is an outward expression that is both contemporary and contextual—an urban parking structure of architectural significance complimenting the neighboring buildings and moving beyond the common iconography of parking garages.