This site adjoins a visually important entrance to the Campus. Our office was retained to address the challenge of creating a 2000 car structure which would actually enhance the entrance and relate to a cluster of theatre buildings to the East and planned University housing to the North.
Standard rectangular plans were studied and found wanting in resolving the form/space relationships with the existing nearby structures. A circular plan was examined because its non-directionality made it a neutral figure relating to all the buildings.
The grove of eucalyptus trees runs through the campus as a defining landscape image and ends at the Southwest corner of our site. The idea of introducing a different element here seemed inappropriate so we have proposed continuity, tightly spaced planting 222 new eucalyptus trees in a spiral pattern as a simple, economical and powerful gesture, visually extending the campus grove.
The question remained, could we achieve acceptable levels of efficiency and cost using a circular plan. With considerable study alternate configurations, parking layouts were developed which achieved the efficiency of conventional rectangular plans, and three independent detailed cost analyses found the construction cost competitive.
The proposed structure utilizes standard garage column and beam forms and post-tensioned slabs. After establishing a regular column grid, the plates of each floor ‘slide’ out, conforming to the curved cross-section and creating the urn shape without increasing cost. In effect the same floor plate is built, only at a different position for successive floors. “Lemon wedge” like voids omit unneeded slab and provide dual internal light wells the full 9 floor height of the structure. To maintain uninterrupted the optimized parking operation, elevator and stair towers are place outside the circle, connected by light steel bridges.
The below grade areaway allows natural ventilation; the retaining wall of precast cribbing with plants provides a vista from below grade of a light filled and flowering perimeter.
Above grade the building is clad with low cost, lightweight translucent polycarbonate plastic panels, tipped to allow natural ventilation. Here the circle proves wise; it contains maximum area with minimum perimeter, establishing economies for cladding material as it did for retaining wall. By day the typical garage image of black slots is transformed into a soft, curved object, seemingly afloat; at every point receding from the viewer. The upward curve is designed to get smaller at the top so that the building is literally fading away. At night the panels deflect headlight glare from housing residents and theatregoers, creating a softly glowing beacon entry image.