Dickies Arena is the new flagship building on the Will Rogers Memorial Center campus in Fort Worth, Tex. The 14,000-seat arena hosts concerts, athletic events, and rodeos that draw 2 million visitors from across the region every year.
And all those visitors needed someplace to park.
In November 2019, the owners of the stadium solved that problem when they officially opened the new six-level, 2,200-car parking garage, which will serve as a premium seat-holder parking amenity adjacent to the arena.
When designing the garage, the designers knew they wanted to replicate the center’s unique western art deco architecture in a modern structure, says Gregory Hoss, president of David M. Schwarz Architects.
“We wanted to create a garage that had a strong vertical thrust in appearance and would relate to the historically based architecture of the arena,” Hoss explains. Given the parking structure’s large size and its prominence to pedestrians and vehicles from all four sides, the designers needed a facade that could also mask the garage’s scale, which led them to choose precast concrete.
“Precast concrete solved several of the challenges on this project,” Hoss says. “The smooth precast concrete finish in a custom color complemented the brick and masonry on the arena, and the fabrication techniques that we developed with Gate allowed us to make large, deep pieces of precast concrete in complex shapes.”
Using precast concrete also took pressure off the budget, he says. “The repetition of forms that we designed made precast concrete a relatively economical means of constructing the piers and the horizontal spandrel panels.”
Simple, subtle, beautiful
Based on precedents found on the historic campus, a series of vertical piers were developed to create a rhythm of vertical bays across three sides of the garage. The large precast concrete piers, spaced to align with and encase the structural columns, slope from bottom to top and have multiple steps in plan .
The design took advantage of the flexibility of precast concrete in the forms to accomplish the stepping and tapering of these pieces. Each pier is designed in 14 pieces to create a soaring three-dimensional shape that could be constructed on site as efficiently as possible. Careful coordination of how the piers were pieced together allowed most of the joints to be hidden in inside corners of the stepped profiles between each large pier.
Two smaller precast concrete piers divide each large bay into three parts. Between them, a series of precast concrete spandrel panels cover the structural floor slab/edge beam and create the edge barrier. “Precast concrete allowed us to skin the building in one material without a secondary structural backup, which saved money and time,” Hoss says.
To make the building seem more accessible to pedestrians, the designer created a one-story base, which acts as the plinth for the five-story piers and is comprised of large precast concrete panels with punched openings and entrances into the garage. The panels are designed with insets, and the concrete is exposed at the heads and sills to emulate a handcrafted masonry quality, tying the structure it to the new arena and the historic center.
To add further cultural significance, the designers cast custom iconography into the panels in a three-dimensional relief based on art deco patterns, Hoss explains. “It allowed us to incorporate ornament into the building in a simple, subtle, and beautiful way.”