In September 2018, UMass Boston opened its first free-standing parking garage. The 500,000 SF precast concrete structure provides parking on eight levels, while the facade is enhanced by colorful metal elements facing the campus and the community. The 1,400 parking space garage includes dedicated spaces for carpoolers, electric vehicles and indoor bicycle storage.
Construction of the $74M garage began in 2017 by Suffolk Construction and was designed by Fennick McCredie Architecture. Blakeslee Prestress erected more than 1,000 pieces of precast concrete in five months during the New England winter, with the installation completed by February of 2018.
The new structure is part of an effort to ease the university’s morning and evening peak commuter traffic. Three vehicular entrances help streamline exits as well as parking transactions being validated via pay-on-foot machines located throughout the garage.
Originally a commuter campus, the University relied on multiple at grade parking lots and a deteriorated original parking structure. The Master Plan consolidated surface parking lots into 2 large garages as well as new student housing for up to 2,000 students. By improving shuttle services and locating the garages outside the campus core, traffic woes were alleviated on University Drive and a safer pedestrian and bicyclist environment was created.
Situated at the campus entrance, the new parking garage is slightly off-axis with University Drive West, facing the athletic fields and parallel with the Service and Supply Building. This orientation provided a perpendicular façade facing the athletic fields, and provided an opportunity to engage these dynamic activities by taking advantage of the plastic nature of the precast concrete structure.
By pulling out pedestrian circulation components from the façade, and providing multiple athletic field viewing opportunities, the west façade heightens the connection to the fields and becomes more dynamic. In addition to these viewing opportunities, the façade contains perforations that imagine baseball trajectories. Aluminum tubes were added to screen parked vehicles that calls to mind aluminum baseball bats lined up along a fence. Five different colors in an irregularly spaced pattern mitigates the static nature of the structure.
Two glass stair towers on the east side of the structure showcase the intensely colored tile elevator and hanging black steel stairs. The white precast concrete provides a neutral backdrop relating to the adjacent Integrated Science Complex.
Parking garages are immediately identifiable by the vehicle circulation ramps that are often reflected in the facades with sloped spandrel panels. Because this structure was sited at the gateway to campus, it was important for it to be somewhat programmatically ambiguous. The design team’s approach was to use full height precast concrete panels at the circulation ramps. However this strategy made meeting the 50% open air requirement more difficult. To address this requirement, many of the solid precast concrete panels were notched with rectangular openings, echoing the view portals in composition and proportion. Taking advantage of the malleable nature of precast concrete, these solid panels were further deformed by adding perforations to help achieve the open air requirements as well as adding to the richness of the overall composition.
Parking structures typically evoke a utilitarian aesthetic. In an effort to assuage community concerns and create a more dynamic and engaging experience, the design team used a custom aluminum extrusion to produce a large scale louver at the south façade. The extruded aluminum fins and attachments were designed and configured in a way that allowed each individual louver blade to be positioned with a slight yet precise (5°) rotation across the façade. As the view angle changes, the relationship of the louver blades also changes. This subtle feature transforms a normally static facade into an animated and dynamic one, engaging the community in the process.
The precast panels for the exterior utilized 100% white cement mix with white aggregate and local sand and were finished with a light sandblast texture. The garage was designed to support a photovoltaic array at the upper level and the electrical infrastructure to support the array when the University adds it in the future. The precast concrete columns were fabricated with column base plates embedded in anticipation of a future structural frame.
Utilizing a total precast concrete system provided the University of Massachusetts with the functional and aesthetic solution for commuters and community alike. The UMASS Boston parking garage was a recipient of an AIA New England 2019 Design Award.