Striking the right note

Ursula Herrling-Tusch
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New World Symphony: Parking garage put in perspective

Slowly but surely, architecturally attractive parking space becomes the expression of a new self-image. The times of great lumps of concrete devoid of soul and tainted with a grubby image are gone. Bad lighting, smelly hallways and scary storeys are a thing of the past. Today, brightness, friendliness and an attractive appearance increasingly become a matter of course. City planners and investors understand that parking garages function as a portal. As it is often the case in life, first impressions of customers and visitors count, allowing for conclusions about the actual offers: Shopping, business partners, and culture. A stylish reception makes people more receptive for the offer given. Since the early 1990s, stainless steel mesh by GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG (GKD), the international leader in technical weaving, plays a prominent role in this respect. As multifunctional and semi-transparent skin of parking spaces – coloured, illuminated or medialised – this industrial material transforms parking garages into leading initial contacts all over the globe. Increasingly, parking spaces are understood to be an integral part of an overall creative concept. The parking garage next to the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, USA, designed by Frank Gehry is an impressive evidence.

In light of the semantic change from being a stepchild to becoming a flagship, the façade of a parking garage plays a central role in reconciling welcoming and valuable aesthetics with desired functionality. People are at the centre but it has to be ensured also that many cars are accommodated economically and securely. The idea of using a semi-transparent metal mesh cover to transform purely functional traffic architecture into eye catchers opened up new possibilities. For the first time, this was implemented by Helmut Jahn in the multi-storey car park at Cologne/Bonn airport. In GKD he found a congenial partner who transferred sophisticated, technical know-how gained in industrial applications to structural requirements and manufactured custom-made fabric. Architectural and design mesh of the brand CreativeWEAVE provides robust protection against the sun, driving rain and draughts. It provides effective protection against falling and is not receptive for pressure and impact while being weather resistant and self-cleaning. The transparency of the mesh guarantees natural ventilation eliminating the need for additional air conditioning. This lowers the costs for construction and maintenance and ensures a pleasant stay. The variety of mesh types leaves nothing to be desired. With a comprehensive range of services it is a safe choice for sustainable facility management.

Solo for spiral mesh

Qualities, Frank Gehry made use of constructing the New World Center. The parking garage is part of a three-piece overall concept which includes the Orchestral Academy, the parking space and green areas. Compared to previous buildings by Gehry, the design of the new concert hall is rather simple. At this full-time orchestral academy many of the best contemporary classical soloists, composers and conductors learned and still learn their trade. Founded in 1987, the new construction offering 700 seats was to embody the idea of a university campus closely linked to the experimental character of the project. Instead of creating a representative concert hall, a “laboratory of classical music” was developed. Gehry complemented this building with a parking structure – its plain basic structure is highlighted by a veil made from GKD stainless steel mesh which allows for colour accents.

The parking garage has six levels, including rooftop, and provides space for approximately 557 cars. Located in the centre of Miami Beach, it serves the needs of residents and provides convenient parking for visitors of the New World Symphony. Following city regulations, shops are located on the ground floor. Therefore, Gehry’s draft had to meet three requirements: The medially spectacular but architecturally plain metal mesh façade had to be aesthetically compatible with the neighbouring concert hall; it had to be durable as well as easily maintained. Considering the marine environment, high alloy stainless steel was the material of choice resisting high salt exposure in the long run. In view of the desired visual effect of depth, Gehry decided for custom-made GKD Helix 12 woven mesh as the exterior façade element. This spiral mesh is made of round instead of flat wire. Lit by the sun or with LED lights installed at the base of the mesh, a shimmering, three-dimensional appearance is created. At the same time, the large mesh size seems to dissolve the flatness of the façade.

Aesthetics as a leitmotif

49 panels, a total of 2.400 square metres of stainless steel mesh of the type Helix, brilliantly put three sides of the parking structure in the limelight. Mesh size, wire thickness and 3-D effect were determined and woven by GKD on a project-specific basis. The mesh now clads five storeys above the retail space. Shimmering in the sun during the day, the façade receives a colourful skin at night. LED lights installed at the base of the panels immerse the mesh in an atmospheric play of light. The controllable lightening changes colours continuously and can be modified to correspond with special events. The texture is also functionally convincing: The elasticity of the fabric allows for standard attachment hardware. Additionally, the proven construction resists hurricane force winds of up to 235 km/h. In general, fire protection is very important for parking spaces. Stainless steel mesh is incombustible and allows sprinkler systems to penetrate the open mesh structure. One of the major challenges constructing the New World Symphony parking garage was to integrate fire company standpipes through the fabric. Tailor-made trim plates welded to the fabric solved this problem in a correct and inconspicuous manner.

Situated at a prominent position on the campus of the Orchestra Academy, the parking garage must meet high functional and visual demands. By choosing a simple basic structure for the functional building, Gehry opted for the approach not to create competition between parking garage and concert hall. However, the three-dimensional effect of the mesh appreciates the parking garage as a virtuoso counterpart, adding an unmistakable appeal to this ensemble. Transparency instead of tristesse, display of light instead of a shadowy existence. Gehry used those instruments to create a pleasing whole in which aesthetics set the tone.

Parking garage put in perspective
Parking garage put in perspective

Coloured LED lights call attention to GKD‘s stainless steel mesh, installed at the New World Symphony parking garage. © GKD/ New York Focus LLC

Parking garage put in perspective

The almost 2.500 m² facade is clad with a total of 49 panels of stainless steel mesh of the type Helix and illuminated by coloured LED lights. © GKD/ New York Focus LLC

Parking garage put in perspective

The parking garage on Pennsylvania Avenue provides space for 557 cars. © GKD/ New York Focus LLC

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