Opera House Parking Structure Honored

Staff | September 28, 2010

The Detroit Opera House Parking Structure was singled out for providing the Best All-Precast Concrete Solution in the 2006 Design Awards competition sponsored by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI).

Designers used an all-precast concrete structural system to create the seven-level, 783-car facility, using a neoclassical style suggestive of the Opera House's architecture. The structural precast concrete panels used at the base have strong rustication that mimic quarried stone work, while the horizontal wall panels feature integral cast-fluted pilasters with openings that provide the look of traditional window openings.

The exposed components of the precast façade are separated into two distinct finishes: an acid-washed bare concrete in a color suggesting limestone and an integral charcoal-gray face mix used to offset and highlight various sections of the precast elevations. These architectural features and the use of decorative precast medallions help duplicate the theatrical character of the opera building and connect it to that structure, even though it is located a half-block away.

The all-precast concrete design, which included double tees, columns, inverted tee beams, K frames, lite walls, stair walls, and risers, provided economical cost, fast erection speed, long-term durability, ease of maintenance, and year-round construction capability.

The exterior wall system does double duty as both a structural system, as well as the architectural façade. To minimize costs, a double-helix sloped floor was created, and the precast façade helps to hide the sloping floors from exterior view while limiting the number and size of shear walls needed.

In singling out this parking structure, the judges said that, "What makes it work is that the vertical geometry for the windows ties it to the rest of the city. From a non-architectural point of view, the clarity and symmetry of the structural system makes it a very sensible choice."

The project was designed by Rich & Associates Inc., of Southfield, for the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. Colasanti Corp., of Detroit, served as the general contractor, while the precast concrete components were supplied by National Precast, of Roseville.

The project was one of 12 buildings to receive awards in the 2006 PCI Design Awards competition, which selects standout projects that made effective use of precast concrete components in a variety of building and bridge categories. More than 110 projects were entered in this year's competition, the 44th annual event. The award was presented at a special banquet on the night of Tuesday, October 24, 2006, at the PCI Annual Convention/Exhibition at the Gaylord Texas Resort in Grapevine, Texas.

Headquartered in Chicago, Ill., with technical and marketing professionals, PCI is an association of more than 2,000 members, including 230 certified producers operating 320 plants and 100-plus supplier members. The organization is international in scope and influence.