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Part of the city fabric – New facade to Gehry-designed car park building

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Dramatic new car park facade by (formerly) Brooks + Scarpa

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Over the past decade, the City of Santa Monica has set about improving the look of the downtown area, and one of its key targets has been the eight parking garages surrounding the popular 3rd Street Promenade and refurbished Santa Monica Place.

Brooks + Scarpa (formerly Pugh + Scarpa) was commissioned to design improvements to the garages, which included buildings originally designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry in the 1980s. The improvements needed to include new facades that would provide a much more vibrant pedestrian experience. Also required were improved pedestrian access, enhanced LED lighting for safety and aesthetics, and ground-floor retail tenancies that would further enliven the street frontage.

Architect Lawrence Scarpa says the design team chose to explore the potential of pattern making and the role it can play in architecture and building construction.

"The team was inspired by a number of diverse things, ranging from the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend in Southwest Alabama to the manufacturers of industrial shipping pallets."

Fire regulations limited the material palette to steel and concrete, which also helped to determine the design.

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"The main feature of Garages 7 and 8, shown here, is the building facade," says Scarpa. "This was designed from a single, mass-produced panel composed of a series of cement board slats formed into screens that resemble wood pallets. Each panel is arranged in a slightly different position or orientation relative to each adjacent panel. Additionally, some panels have a slight shift in the position of a single plank within a number of panels. So the effect is a non-repeating complex patterned facade that is aesthetically pleasing. It is also functional, in that it screens the cars behind, and provides ventilation for the car park."

The two stair blocks at either end of the garages are encased in glass planks, with red film sandwiched between the glass. This ensures the red boxes glow at night.

Artists were invited to design the end facades that face east and west. Ball-Nogues Studio designed a large art work of suspended steel balls, and Anne-Marie Karlsen designed a tiled art work.

Scarpa says the redesign of the buildings preserves the iconic steel mesh signage created by Frank Gehry, while updating many other aesthetic and functional features for the 21st century.

Infrastructure was also created for the imminent installation of 1000 solar panels within canopies that will provide cooling shade for both cars and pedestrians. The electricity generated by the solar panels will be used to power the complex as well as other public buildings in the vicinity. And although there is no need for air conditioning in the garage, the design team worked out a separate mechanical engineering system for the retail stores.

First published date: 30 June 2012

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Credit List

Location Santa Monica Municipal Parking Garages improvements, Santa Monica, CA
Architect Lawrence Scarpa FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa (formerly Pugh + Scarpa), Los Angeles
Architect of record Taylor Fierce Orne Architects
Mechanical engineering Fruchtman & Associates
Structural engineering John A Martin & Associates
Electrical engineering G&W Consulting Electrical Engineers
Lighting Kaplan Gehring McCarroll
Signage Egg Office
Public art Cliff Garten Studio; Ball-Nogues Studio (suspended ball sculpture); Anne-Marie Karlen (tile art wall)
General contractor WE O'Neil
Awards 2011 AIA LA Citation Award for Excellence in Architectural Design