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Unique Light Play

A flowing 3-D perforated aluminum sunshade highlights new parking garage

Dams 2 Mar18

Just a 15-minute train ride from the heart of downtown Chicago, Oak Park, Ill., is modernizing its appeal to millennials and young professionals drawn to the urban landscape with an arsenal of new developments. A view of the Chicago skyline is now complimented by an $85 million development including a new, 20-story, luxury high-rise apartment complex, called The Emerson, complete with a heated rooftop swimming pool, skybridge, full gym, retail space, a Target store and community lounge. A growing community of small niche businesses and restaurants in the downtown area caters to the new influx of patrons, and features the commodity all Chicagoans crave: parking.

The parking structure is used by shoppers, residents and commuters into the city. The parking garage is certainly a highlight of the structure, with a flowing 3-D perforated aluminum sunshade screening creating unique light play both inside and outside the building.

“As part of the development in Oak Park, a commitment was made to locate some art elements on the site,” says Thomas Fennell IV, communications manager at FitzGerald Associates Architects, Chicago. “During site planning, the FitzGerald design team considered making space for sculptural art within landscaped areas or designing LED light effects on the bridge that connects the two buildings, but eventually developed a plan to wrap the parking decks in a perforated metal panel system that would take on an interesting artistic form.”

“The team sketched and modeled several different patterns, forms and color schemes, and the panels’ varied perforations were detailed to meet applicable codes for ventilating the parking structure,” he adds. “The final design is a projecting wave of perforated panels in a gradient of blue, evoking the movement of adjacent rail lines and wrapping its way around the corner of the building.”

Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., tapped DAMS Inc.–D. Architectural Metal Solutions Inc., Alsip, Ill., for the development of the design of the original sunshade structure. “Tuschall Engineering was invited to bid this project in the early design phases to work on budgets and general design,” explains James C. Tuschall, president of Tuschall Engineering. “The spec was undefined, so we approached DAMS to guide the way. This was a perfect fit for DAMS as they specialize in aluminum structures and panels.”

Project Challenges

The Village of Oak Park had a major concern over light bleed from the interior of the parking deck towards the exterior open space. A balance was demonstrated with a series of sample panels and full-scale mockups at the DAMS facility, where the final variations in the perforation pattern were agreed upon to achieve the design intent. The design team further considered the perspective of patrons from within the parking garage to take advantage of natural daylighting available at this location in the city.

A unique feature of the perforation is the open space of the patterns were not a variation in hole size but rather an increase or decrease in pattern spacing across each unit. Three variations of color combined with 18 unique angles of rotation were ultimately utilized to enhance the illusion of movement across the final assembled façade. This creates the freeform wave pattern that can be seen in the exterior design.

“Some of the challenges were to design deflection connections into the frames,” points out Tuschall. “This system is a parking garage screen attached primarily to the concrete slab.”

FitzGerald Associates Architects’ original design called for one large unit approximately 9 feet by 11 feet in size. DAMS had to find a solution that would work both for raw material sizes, structural engineering, thermal expansion accommodations and movement inherent in a parking garage structure. Working within the limits of the raw material available, the result was a three-piece assembly that when mounted would nest together to form the intended larger unit.

At the same time, a support frame was required by engineering as a response to the wind load and deflection limitations. DAMS created a minimal frame structure that was mounted inside of the bent perforated panels. Once painted, the interior reinforcing frame virtually disappeared in the overall assembly of the façade.

The primary attachment system was comprised of heavy-gauge vertical channels that were hole prepped to receive the finished perforated units as well as fasten directly to the exterior structure of the garage.

Keeping in mind the deflection criteria of the parking decks themselves, slotted holes were provided to ensure the deck structure could move independent of the façade without causing distortion to the perforated unit assemblies. Additional unique conditions occurred at the corners of the garage where multiple piece units came together over a cantilevered support bracket.

Careful consideration and planning was done by the DAMS project management team to ensure the sunshade units arrived fully fabricated and ready to hang with detailed shop drawings to minimize field labor and provide a smooth installation. Every attempt was made to minimize any attachment points back to structure and maintain a clean, finished aesthetic.

“This project had very little installation struggles or hiccups,” adds Tuschall. “Quality design and shop drawings are essential for success.”

Shawn Bowman, CSI, is the national director of sales and marketing at DAMS Inc.–D. Architectural Metal Solutions Inc., Alsip, Ill. To learn more, visit