Proj Overview


Collegiate Gothic Garage Keeps Campus True to Form

Ultimately plastic and versatile, precast concrete helps designers realize their vision even when it's not the hero in the visual. In this project, designers applied a fieldstone veneer to the exterior of the precast garage following erection. The result faithfully reproduces the historic collegiate gothic aesthetic of the university, so that it feels like a part of the campus it serves. This was the top priority for the owner.

The gothic theme is further reinforced with a feeling of piers and verticality, particularly at the stair towers which have strong vertical elements. This continuity is important as the project is part of a master plan to transform the campus landscape by replacing two large parking lots with residence halls, retail, parking, a pedestrian bridge, and a performing arts center.

At 330,342 square feet, the 300-toot-long 1,300-space garage was built on a tight site by a prominent intersection. But rather than dominating as a visual element, the five-level, open structure fits in with the other buildings being constructed. Recessing into the sloped site minimizes its perceived mass and allows the garage to comply with local zoning height restrictions.


The design team chose precast construction because it could generate profiles and other elements of visual interest in a cost-effective manner. The concrete mix design was carefully formulated to complement the field applied stone, and also to mimic limestone.

Precast concrete frames the open elements, providing textured surfaces, creating shadows, and otherwise treating the concrete as a decorative material.

Precast sills and windows emulate cast stone. The design includes areas where precast could be used with decorative patterns instead of stone to help reduce cost.

The garage is not typical precast design. It features vertical columns with horizontal spandrels and horizontal wall panels with punched openings. The size and repetition made possible by the design allowed the use of steel rather than wood forms for many elements.

Playing Well With Others

This new building type that fits the campus aesthetic also acknowledges its neighbors. While the garage is an open design for natural ventilation, the designers observed a balance using solid parapets with a single rail to achieve the required guard height. The garage meets dark sky requirements, significantly limiting light intrusion into its surroundings.

The architect notes that another key factor in the decision to use precast was the ability to erect quickly on site. It replaced a surface lot, but they had already provided alternate spaces to make up for those lost in the construction of the garage. The garage was an enabling project for the construction of a 1,139-bed student housing project with a rigid completion date. On-site erection began in July and the garage was in service six months later, after which work could begin immediately on the student housing.


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Project Team


Voith & Mactavish Architects


Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA)


The Harman Group


Torcon Inc.


Villanova University


High Concrete Group

PCI Certified Erector

High Structural Erectors

Key Project Attributes

  • The speed of erection of precast concrete enabled a carefully timed construction schedule
  • The ability to replicate limestone detailing in a cost-effective manner allowed the designer to make the best use of materials to achieve the vision for the project
  • Horizontal wall panels, 45' in length spanning floor to floor with punched openings, were used to tailor the exterior to the campus aesthetic. The panels take the place of the typical column and spandrel design. Where stems from double tees fall, vertical elements with corbels provide support and continue the field-applied stone theme on the exterior
  • Only a few exterior columns were used for framing support, the majority of the exterior framing was made up by way of the exterior panels. The panelization of these panels was very unique, with custom forms used to cast the majority of the exterior walls. Pilasters were poured monolithic with the panel to ensure that they would line up vertically panel to panel. A CNC machine was used to build the custom archway forms

Project/Precast Scope

  • The 1,300-car garage utilizes two-part entry with regulated student parking starting on the fourth level. The performing arts center on the intersection and student housing are served by the garage
  • Large, open 45' bays comprising 15' double tees provide large, safe spaces for maneuverability and visibility
  • Overall, there were 937 pieces of precast concrete on the project
  • Stair towers emphasize verticality. The limestone look of the medium blast precast concrete complements and contrasts the varied stone colors
  • Precast detailing on the windows and doorways adds visual interest as visitors approach; window sizing helps bring a human scale to the corners of the building