In September 2018, the Canal Dock Boathouse officially opened its doors in New Haven, Connecticut. The building replaces the historic George Adee Memorial Boathouse, which was built in 1911. That building was razed in 2007 to make way for a new suspension
bridge over the Quinnipiac river. It took several years, but the State of Connecticut and the federal government agreed to mitigate the loss of the historic boathouse by providing $43 million for the design and construction of the new Canal Dock Boathouse.
Designed by Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects, the 30,000-square foot Canal Dock Boathouse is clad in more than 1,500 square feet of Kingspan insulated metal panels – 1,278 square feet of BENCHMARK Designwall 4000 Architectural Wall Panels and
254 square feet of BENCHMARK Designwall 2000 Architectural Wall Panels. All the panels are Champagne Bronze.
The original design for the building didn’t include the use of insulated metal panels.
“It was originally supposed to be clad in terracotta, but the bid for that was an outrageous sum of money,” said Donna Hall, senior project planner for the City of New Haven. “We looked at other materials for the exterior of the
building that could not only maintain the integrity, design intent and vision, but also the quality of building we were trying to achieve. We decided on metal panels.”
Richard Wies, principal architect at Gregg Wies & Gardner, likes using insulated metal panels for a number of reasons.
“I like that they’re light weight, their means of fastening and sealing are logical and rational, and that they can be adapted to a wide variety of forms and surfaces,” said Wies. “They have lots of nice finish options, as
well as textures and forms of material.”
The new building should help dispel any thoughts that insulated metal panels have their limits when it comes to architectural design.
“Architecture is about providing good design,” said Wies. “You can work with any material, it’s a matter of execution. There’s so much great architecture out there based on metal panels. It’s like any other material
quite frankly - it’s about how well you execute and put it together.”
Inside, visitors get a glimpse into the past, as salvaged pieces of the old boathouse have been incorporated into the new design, including the front entrance, a staircase and a fireplace.
“We took an unusual approach to salvage parts of the old building and integrate them into the new structure,” said Wies.
The two-story building features space for boating activities and storage on the first floor, and the second floor has multipurpose rooms and meeting areas. There’s also a large dock where outdoor events can be held, as well as classroom space
on the mezzanine level for students in the marine biology program at the University of New Haven.
“We were in talks with them (University of New Haven) very early on in the process of design about bringing them in essentially as an anchor tenant,” said Hall. “They had a desire to have a bigger presence in New Haven and had a
marine biology program that was expanding faster than they could keep up with, so it seemed like a natural partnership.”
The boathouse also features a museum component that displays elements from the original boathouse building and is a space where recreation, culture, history, and education all come together.