The Commonwealth of Virginia Department of General Services contracted Commonwealth Architects, along with design-build partner S.B. Ballard Construction Company, to design and construct a 1,000- […]
The Commonwealth of Virginia Department of General Services contracted Commonwealth Architects, along with design-build partner S.B. Ballard Construction Company, to design and construct a 1,000- car, precast construction parking deck with a total of 11 levels with 2 levels below grade in downtown Richmond,VA. The garage contains two bays of double loaded parking aisles arranged in a double helix configuration allowing two levels of vertical travel for each revolution of horizontal travel. Commonwealth Architects designed the structure to lessen the overall impact of its scale and massing in order to better relate and match the façade of the surroundings buildings and environment.
Generally, parking decks fall into either of two design categories:
1. First are the straightforwardly brutalistic structures that possess an industrial aesthetic. At mid-20th century, many such decks were built in downtown Richmond — Marshall Street decks served buildings on Broad, and Cary Street garages supported Main Street’s financial district. But those lines have blurred since Broad Street as a hub of business and commerce has continually shifted.
These muscular concrete and steel garages, with designs that date back to the advent of modernism, establish walls, and therefore deliver more urbanity along the sidewalk.
2. The second approach to garage design grew out of architectural postmodernism in the 1970s and ’80s. These decks have decoration or historical context and often were built adjacent to high-visibility landmarks. These faux historical structures offer up a kindler and gentler parking deck structure.
The Main Street Centre Employee Parking is the latter. This parking deck enhances its surroundings; it’s a required urban necessity that blends in nicely with the surroundings.
The state’s parking deck, bounded by Franklin, Sixth and Seventh streets, is that rare example of an unfortunate urban necessity — the car park — blending in nicely with the surroundings. The 357,000 SF deck is located adjacent to the Main Street Centre high-rise and provides parking for Commonwealth of Virginia employees. The Owner’s goal was to provide parking for employees with quick access to and from Interstate-95.
Rather than a single building façade, the building is broken up into a series of building planes, alternating between brick and precast concrete. The garage façade is constructed with brick-clad precast wall panels and punched openings with screenings as opposed to the typical garage design of spandrel panels. This allowed for the structure to more appropriately relate to the surrounding buildings as well as conceal the telling sloping floors of a parking deck.
Vehicles enter and exit off of Sixth and Seventh streets so Franklin Street, one of the city’s historic east-west thoroughfares, has neither a gaping hole in its front wall nor the danger of cars careening downhill on the one-way street when the traffic light changes. Secondly, Commonwealth Architects broke up the mass of the facade by establishing multiple bays along Franklin Street. These bays are defined by those alternating vertical bands of cast concrete and brick siding and suggest six separate buildings. Finally, there are large window openings that establish horizon lines, am it’s only through the open spaces one can easily see the structure is a parking garage.
At rear of the garage, which fronts the terraced and well-planted pedestrian plaza of the Main Street Centre the same outer wall treatment continues as on the three street fronts. Rarely does the inner block treatment replicate the street front façade, but it completes the enhance the visual appeal of the structure.
This parking structure filled a hole in the downtown Richmond cityscape and significantly enhanced its surroundings. In fact, the garage serves to frame, both tightly and attractively, the adjacent pedestrian plaza that was unanchored before the establishment of the new architectural backdrop. From the Main Street sidewalk, this structure also serves to set off fancier buildings nearby such as the former Virginia Electric and Power Co. high-rise at Seventh and Franklin.
The parking structure, which is 11-levels high, is rectangular in nature, containing two bays of double loaded parking aisles. Each bay consists of a ramp, which ascends one parking level, and a flat landing at each end. This allows for two levels of vertical travel for each full revolution of horizontal travel. The structure includes three stair towers, two of which have lobbies for dual elevators. The entire garage is illuminated with highly controllable LED light fixtures.