When passersby stroll through Chicago’s Near North neighborhood, they might take pause at Niche 905, an 18-story residential tower. Chicago is not in short supply of high rises, but this one is grabbing attention for its functional garage
ventilation screen that also acts as art. Dri-Design’s Tapered Series Panels were perforated and installed to add sculptural art to the building
with dimension and playful shadows.
Niche 905 includes a 167-space parking garage on a podium level that is above the first-floor lobby. Screening was required for proper garage ventilation and airflow. James Broughton, principal and project design director with FitzGerald Associates,
the Chicago-based architect, says the design team was trying to avoid creating a garage screen eyesore that is habitually created. The solution for Niche 905 was Dri-Design perforated metal panels.
“When the garage is illuminated, the perforation pattern makes it appear more like an intentional illuminated feature and less like the viewer is seeing into the parking garage, making it harder to identify what you are seeing through the screen,”
Tuschall Engineering, Burr Ridge, Ill., installed 3,176 square feet of 0.80-inch aluminum Tapered Series Panels in a Silversmith color. For the installation, a backup structure was made to bridge from the crash wall to the concrete floor above. This
was based on Dri-Design’s recommendations for material size and attachment method. Tuschall Engineering supplied the backup structure for the project.
Jim Tuschall, president of Tuschall Engineering, says, “The Dri-Design panel installation was the easiest part of the job because of the way the panels are manufactured to assemble together, and everything fit perfectly.”
FitzGerald Associates worked with Dri-Design to create a staggered perforation pattern for the Tapered Series Panels. The varying perforation size makes it harder to see what is behind the screen while adding more visual interest. Tapered Series Panels
can be angled in any direction with varying depths and degree of slope. This freedom to design each specific panel gives an unlimited capacity to create a dynamic, one-of-a-kind surface.
“Each project has its own set of guiding principles and design goals, which is why customization is always an option with Dri-Design panels,” says Brad Zeeff, president of Dri-Design. “Virtually any shape and pattern can be created
with perforated panels. Match that with Tapered Series’ angle possibilities, and you have a very unique installation.”
The developers were Ascend Real Estate Group, Chicago, and Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., Boston, with general contractor Power Construction, Chicago. Walter Rebenson, CEO of Ascend Real Estate, says: “Ascend worked with Fitzgerald Associates
and Dri-Design for the garage panel system at Niche 905. The panel system spans almost the full block and for three floors, so it needed to be a significant architectural feature while functioning well to screen the garage floors. The alternating
panels allowed us to create a mosaic feature that would change the aesthetics depending on the viewer's angle and the movement of the sun. The result is a stunning undulating effect across the length and height of the panels that was a cost-effective
solution with low maintenance needs.”
The 202-unit building sits in a redeveloped neighborhood that is getting much attention. It features a large lobby with a coffee bar, business center, fireplace and seating area. The first floor has a dog run, bicycle storage and retail space. The
floor equally draws residents in with its fitness center, yoga studio, entertainment room with a kitchen, outdoor pool, hot tub and a sun deck with fire pit, grills and bar.