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48,000 finished aluminum flapper panels create a fascinating façade

Kineticwall Jun18 1

Too often, parking garages tend to be nothing more than a visually unappealing, indoor, stacked lot. However, Massachusetts Port Authority’s (Massport) new central parking facility expansion at Boston’s Logan Airport bucks that trend with a modern and sustainable design from Boston-based Arrowstreet Inc. Because of the facility’s prominent location, Massport wanted a contemporary 21st century design, a structure that incorporated sustainable materials, and delivered an elegant and dynamic look. The solution turned out to be, as in the Bob Dylan song, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

A large kinetic wall with a dynamic moving building façade that creates an eye-catching aesthetic is the end result. “Responding to dynamic wind patterns coming off the Atlantic Ocean, the façade undulates to create the look of rolling waves,” says Jim Leslie, general manager of Pittsburgh-based Exterior Technologies Inc. (EXTECH), the façade’s manufacturer. “Invisible flows of wind become perceptible and create an ever-changing gateway to the airport. It has 48,000 curved aluminum flapper squares set within 353 preassembled panels that span eight stories high and 290 feet wide. EXTECH’s KINETICWALL system squares connect to stainless steel rods and are assembled into 350 unitized panels to maximize the visual effect of the wind rippling.”


Massport design goals were sustainability, aesthetic beauty and long-term cost savings. "[This] was a unique opportunity to transform a utilitarian structure into an ever-changing work of art,” says David Bois, principal at Arrowstreet. To create the look of rolling waves, and offer robust resilience over other materials to hurricane-force winds and torrential rainfall, “The mix of lightweight aluminum for the 6-inch curved movable panels and stainless steel support framing provided the perfect materials for the project, both for exceptional durability and strength,” Bois adds. This helped reduce the system life span costs and repair.

The aluminum and steel are 100 percent recyclable, which met the project’s sustainability requirements. In addition to permitting visibility from the inside, the panels facilitate airflow, ventilate the building and deflect solar heat gain. This limits the demand on the HVAC system and saves energy.

The aluminum, after anodizing, creates minimal glare. A matte finish was achieved with anti-reflective qualities, which was necessary due to the facility’s prominent location and proximity to the airport. Excessive glare could impact pilot vision, as well as the vision of automobile drivers. Also, a more high-end material was needed to complement the surrounding architecture. A 9/11 memorial across from the parking expansion has a luxury hotel next to it. The metal cladding provides a sleek, lux façade that fits accordingly with these sites.

Because of the façade’s innovation and novelty, Leslie says EXTECH provided Massport with several mock-ups and prototypes to ensure the flappers would meet the design intent. A kinetic façade provides a visual representation of an unseen and unpredictable natural phenomenon – the wind–so EXTECH provided the architects with prototypes that were installed on-site to ensure Massport the wall would perform as expected. The project’s general contractor was Turner Construction Co., Boston.


Each flapper panel was finished by Wausau, Wis.- based Linetec in Class I clear anodize. “Subjected to 130-mph winds to test system resiliency, the system’s anodize finish also contributes to its durability,” says Tammy Schroeder, LEED Green Associate, senior marketing specialist at Linetec. “The Class I coating is a high-performance anodic finish used primarily for exterior building products and other products that must withstand continuous outdoor exposure.”

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Schroeder believes anodizing successfully combines science with nature to create one of the world’s best metal finishes. “Because it is an integral part of the substrate, the anodic coating provides excellent wear and abrasion resistance with minimal maintenance,” she adds. Choosing clear anodize to create the unique façade not only contributes to its lasting performance, but also accentuates the intended sense of movement as the light reflects off the aluminum flapper panels that seem to dance in the wind.

“Various shapes, material thickness and finishes were tested, resulting in the curved anodized aluminum pieces that reflect light and ripple with the breeze,” Bois says. “Our partnership with EXTECH allowed us to develop and fabricate a system for the façade that would have been difficult–if not impossible–without their collaboration. The move from the mass-produced to a more custom approach in design and construction provides new possibilities which parallel clients’ rising expectations. [For this project,] simple, common components came together to form an uncommon result.”

Ipswich Bay Glass Co. Inc. (IBG), Rowley, Mass., installed the kinetic façade. Not only was IBG contracted to provide the dynamic façade but also the large-scale colored decorative vertical fins on the garage. “Our role as the contractor was to help in the design the kinetic façade, coordinate and install the system,” says Charles Moniz, director of sales and estimating at IBG. “We tested the façade at Architectural Testing Inc. (now Intertek, Boston) to be certain that the system would function as intended under normal circumstances and extreme wind conditions. We then coordinated delivery, unloading and installation of the system. The project was executed perfectly and the install (at an active airport) was well coordinated by Turner’s field team and IBG’s installation crew. All in all this was a successful project for all involved and IBG was thrilled to be part of the team.”