Rand Elliott and his Oklahoma City firm, Elliott + Associates Architects, garnered national attention and praise for the first two parking structures they designed for Chesapeake Energy—car parks One and Two. Now they have designed and constructed two more—Three and Four. As with the first pair, Elliott has invested a level of sophistication, attention to detail, and desire to create enjoyable spaces that is not typically associated with the typology, which more often than not is a bottom-dollar engineered product produced for expediency rather than the enjoyment of time.
“I find myself gravitating toward projects that appear to have no potential,” Elliott told AN during a recent conversation about his latest batch of parking structures. “Those are my favorite. When people ask me, what would be your favorite project, I tell them the ones that seem to have nothing to offer. Give me a warehouse, or a parking structure. They have such potential to do something great.”
Elliott master planned and designed all of the 56 or so buildings of Chesapeake’s 111-acre campus, which is in a suburban location some six miles north of downtown Oklahoma City. It is the sort of opportunity that any architect would relish—to create a world within the world, one that unfolds over time, representing the designers’ evolving tastes and ambitions, as well as those of their client. In this case, Chesapeake and Elliott share a very similar vision: to create architecture that enlivens those who use it as a means of attracting the brightest talents in the field. This commitment extends across the entire campus, and is evident in the parking structures.
Architecturally, the car parks relate to the buildings they serve. Three serves building 14, which houses the IT workforce. Elliott was inspired by the rigor and discipline involved in this type of work and expressed it in the form of a grid of polycarbonate panels, which is 25-percent open in accordance with air circulation code. Across the street is the company’s childcare center. The architects responded to this by using blocks of primary color in the facade that faces that direction, offering the children a more playful version of the grid.
Four serves building 15, which is a gateway to the south side of the campus. The building features a large southern exposure. To manage sun control—Oklahoma City gets about 300 sunny days per year—the architects employed a system of white vertical fins, 12-inch deep mullions oriented to mitigate sun from the southwest. While in the office building the fins shade a glass facade, in the garage they shade open air, again allowing the breeze to blow through. Elliott also varied the spacing of the mullions to create a sense of movement across the facade.
As with car parks One and Two, each floor of Three and Four is color coded, making it easier to remember where you parked (the elevator buttons feature the colors rather than numbers). These colors are reinforced at night with colored lighting integrated into the stairwells and in a light and air well that penetrates the centers of each structure, adding yet another layer of enjoyment to the space.