Metal Architecture Home

Rowing Rhapsody

Roofs inspired by the motion of rowing give boathouse visual identity

Eleanor Boathouse July18 2
Photo: Tom Harris, courtesy of Studio Gang

The stop-motion of rowing inspired the rhythmic roof form of Eleanor Boathouse in Chicago. The two-building facility reflects the movement of rowing with structural trusses that alternate between inverted-V and M shapes.

The distinct design gives the boathouse a visual identity, and the space between the two buildings establishes an entry point. They are splayed to embrace the site’s turning basin condition and address different vistas from east and west approaches. The judging panel lauded the design for its lighthanded, yet aggressive form. The design is successful and well executed throughout all scales, large to small, the judges said, and metal was leveraged for its specific qualities to create a compelling project. They chose Eleanor Boathouse to receive the Grand Award in the 2018 Metal Architecture Design Awards.

Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Int. FRIBA, founding principal at Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects, which designed the project, says, “We wanted the building’s form to reflect the movement of rowing and draw people here to learn and experience rowing and the valuable teamwork it instills. Its alternating roof trusses were generated from studying this motion, while creating functional south-facing clerestory windows that bring in sunlight to warm the boat storage facility in colder months using minimal energy.”

Photo: Tom Harris, courtesy of Studio Gang

River Revitalization

Eleanor Boathouse, named for its location on Eleanor Street, is at Chicago Park District’s Park 571, which is a 3-acre park at the South Fork on the Chicago River. It is the fourth and final new boathouse in a series of projects part of the park district’s long-term plan to revitalize the river, provide opportunities for greater community recreation and environmental stewardship of the river. The first two boathouses, Ping Tom Boathouse and Clark (Richard) WMS Boathouse, were completed in 2013. The third, River Boathouse, was completed in 2014. Eleanor Boathouse broke ground in August 2015 and was completed in December 2016. Studio Gang Architects also designed Clark (Richard) WMS Boathouse.

“The Chicago River boathouses are part of a new environmentally friendly vision for the city's river,” Gang says. “By making the riverfront a destination for recreation, anchored by dynamic, sustainable architecture, we hope to catalyze long-term stewardship and support for the river's remediation, as well as improve the health of the communities that surround it.”

Michael Kelly, general superintendent and CEO at Chicago Park District, says, “The Chicago Park District is excited to offer our residents an opportunity to tap into more recreational opportunities along the Chicago River. With the opening of this most recent boathouse in the Bridgeport community, we have reclaimed the Chicago River with access points at a total of four boathouse locations from our parks, offering water-based recreation options for Chicagoans to enjoy.”

Photo: William Zbaren Photography, courtesy of EXTECH

Customized Zinc

Zinc panels completely clad the two structures. Mundelein, Ill.-based Sheet Metal Supply Ltd. was the fabricator and Romeoville, Ill.-based Bennett and Brosseau Inc. was the installer. On the two roofs, Bennett and Brosseau installed Carlisle, Pa.-based Carlisle SynTec Systems’ Sure-Flex low-VOC membrane and 23,000 square feet of Woburn, Mass.-based RHEINZINK America Inc.’s prePATINA Double Lock standing seam roof system. On the walls, the company diagonally installed 10,000 square feet of RHEINZINK’s Flat Lock Tiles. Additionally, the project utilized Eastman, Ga.-based Arconic Architectural Products LLC’s Reynobond aluminum composite material and Mount Hope, Ohio-based Wayne Dalton Corp.’s overhead doors.

Ben Kweton, vice president at Sheet Metal Supply, says the design team opted for a slightly customized version of Flat Lock panels. “The tiles we fabricated had a slight offset at the top to bring the panel overlaps more into plane and to create a slight reveal,” he says.

Ryan Broom, project manager at Bennett and Brosseau, adds, “[Zinc] provides a great quality look and allows more architectural detailing than can be done with many other metals.”

Photo: William Zbaren Photography, courtesy of EXTECH

Energy-efficient Daylighting

Eleanor Boathouse employs energy-efficient daylighting. The roof’s rhythmic modulation allows southern light to pass through clerestories. In summer, the clerestory lets in fresh air. In winter, it allows sunlight to warm the floor slab, minimizing energy use throughout the year.

For clerestories on the larger of the two buildings, Sheet Metal Supply fabricated, and Aurora, Ill.-based Anthony Roofing Ltd., of Tecta America Corp., installed, 2,288 square feet of Pittsburgh-based Exterior Technologies Inc.’s (EXTECH) LIGHTWALL 3440 polycarbonate translucent wall system. The aluminum framing for the clerestories was finished by Wausau, Wis.-based Linetec Inc. with a 70 percent PVDF resin-based finish. Walker, Mich.-based Tubelite Inc.’s storefront system was also installed.

The south side of the boathouse features a custom green gradient window screen. It complements the zinc façade and creates an aesthetic connection to the river.

For glazing applications including windows facing the river in a main community space and offices, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Guardian Glass supplied its low-E insulated glass. Eleanor Boathouse is designed to attain LEED Silver certification.

Kevin Smith, RA, director of product application and development at EXTECH, says his company’s translucent panels contribute to LEED credits. “The diffusing characteristics of the cellular polycarbonate reduce dependence on electric lighting and reduce solar heat gain into the building envelope, as well as reduce light pollution emanating from the building. Because it is a dry glazed system, VOC emissions also are reduced.”

Year-round Rowing

Eleanor Boathouse is comprised of a 13,171-square-foot boat storage building and 5,832-square-foot rowing training center. The boat storage building houses a heated boat storage repair bay, rowing office and vending area. It has capacity to store 75 rowing shells. The mechanically heated rowing training center contains the main office, a multipurpose room, workout center and restrooms.

The boathouse operates year-round and is primarily used by five groups: Chicago Training Center, which provides rowing opportunities to underserved youth, Lincoln Park Boat Club, Recovery on Water, which serves cancer patients and survivors, St. Ignatius College Prep rowing group and University of Chicago’s intramural rowing team. Trish Brubaker, coach of University of Chicago’s rowing team and Lincoln Park rowing team, says, “The cultural impact a physical boathouse has on a team cannot be overstated. It will be their meeting place, their shelter, and the home of everything they love about their team and rowing.”

Photo: William Zbaren Photography, courtesy of EXTECH