WMS Boathouse

RHEINZINK America Inc.

Shortly after taking office, Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel identified the Chicago River as “the city’s next recreational frontier.“ He announced plans to build four boathouses as “anchors to the river’s future development.“ The recently completed WMS Boathouse at Clark Park on the northwest side of the city is the second of the new boathouses to open and establishes an iconic presence on the river. Vertically oriented Flat Lock panels from RHEINZINK America Inc. of Woburn, MA, cover significant portions of the building's main façade.

Home to the Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF), the 22,621 sq. ft. complex consists of a two-story training center, one-story boat storage facility and a floating launch dock. In partnership with the Chicago Park District, CRF offers a wide range of year-round public indoor and outdoor activities.

The project was designed by Studio Gang Architects. “The architecture is meant to visually capture the poetic rhythm and motion of rowing,“ said Jeanne Gang, founder and principal. “But by providing a publically accessible riverfront, it also reveals the larger movement toward an ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River.“

The boathouse’s design translates the time-lapse motion of rowing into an architectural roof form, providing visual interest while also offering spatial and environmental advantages that allow the boathouse to adapt to Chicago’s distinctive seasonal changes.

The exterior of the boathouse is clad in zinc and slate. Vertically oriented RHEINZINK Flat-Lock Tiles fabricated from 1.0 mm preweathered graphite-grey cover approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of the façade. An additional 2,000 sq. ft. of RHEINZINK material was used for flashing and exterior detailing while RHEINZINK’s AIR-Z structured underlayment provided an air-gap behind the zinc.

All Flat-Lock Tiles were fabricated locally by RHEINZINK distributor Sheet Metal Supply Ltd. (SMS), Mundelein, IL. The panels measured 16“ wide by various lengths ranging from 20“ to nearly 10‘. “This was certainly a custom job,“ noted Ben Kweton, SMS vice president. “We do a lot of work with RHEINZINK and have adapted our shop equipment and educated our employees to work with zinc. We’re very efficient in the production of Flat-Lock Tiles and many other RHEINZINK profiles. We work with a wide range of metals and believe in the RHEINZINK product. It’s very malleable and one of the easiest metals to form. We feel RHEINZINK is the greenest choice available for architectural metal.“

Installation of the zinc and slate was done by Mortenson Roofing, Frankfort, IL, a subcontractor of M. Cannon Roofing, Schaumburg, IL. According to Ken Swart, project manager at Mortenson, “This was our first high-profile opportunity to work with zinc. RHEINZINK introduced us to Sheet Metal Supply who helped us throughout the ordering and custom fabrication process. The graphite-grey panels were just beautiful. The combined service of RHEINZINK and Sheet Metal Supply was outstanding and helped turn our installation into a fairly simple matter.“

Ben Kweton of Sheet Metal Supply was equally complimentary. “We developed a great working relationship with Mortenson Roofing,“ Kweton said. “We share the same work ethic and demand for quality. It’s always a pleasure to do business with a solid company like Mortenson. We look forward to partnering with them in the future.“

Photographs by Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

About RHEINZINK America Inc.

RHEINZINK America, Inc. is a North American provider of architectural zinc used in the fabrication of roofing, facades, rainware and architectural details. For more information visit

^ Back To Top