Aluminum Composite Roof Canopy, Soffits Help Define Civic Center
A 50-year promise of a new city hall in Warren, Mich., finally has been fulfilled as part of a $30 million civic center construction project that has permanently altered the downtown landscape of Michigan’s third-largest city.
The new city hall is the first step in the implementation of a master plan that envisioned replacing the original obsolete city hall and creating a central public library. At the same time, the city wanted to shed its image as an oversized suburb with no central core.
Though the city initially had hoped for a more traditional 19th century design solution, officials eventually agreed to a more contemporary scheme that would reflect the city’s tradition as a research and development town, embodied by the General Motors Technical Center located directly across the street.
In the final design, city hall became three floors stacked over the library to visually complement future high-rise developments envisioned for the area and to create a complementary bookend to the Vehicle Engineering Center, the tallest building on the GM campus.
The focal point of the center, which opened last November, is a grand glass-walled atrium overlooking the new city square and linking the building’s four floors. The atrium also serves as the indoor public space used for community and corporate events.
Overhead, a 140-foot-by-45-foot cantilevered roof canopy, fashioned from 23,000 square feet of 4-millimeter-thick, geometrically shaped aluminum composite panels in gleaming silver, extends from the atrium over the plaza toward the city square.
Leonardo Fabiilli of Neumann/Smith Architecture explained that the roof canopy, with an average height of 77 feet above ground, resembles an airplane wing. Similarly, a wing-shaped design was introduced over the building’s west entrance through the use of a 32-foot-by-25-foot aluminum composite canopy.
ACM panels modulated in a curvilinear form, 12 feet by 45 feet long, provide a distinctive cantilevered canopy over the library’s book drop-off area on the east side of the complex.
The use of ACM panels on the cantilevered roof canopy allowed what Fabiilli described as a modern, formal front porch that screens the sun above.
“We felt that a metal composite canopy system would allow us more design flexibility given the high-tech, futuristic look of the complex,” Fabiilli said. “And the metal composite panels complement the other materials used on the project, including the insulating frit glass that encloses the atrium, the brick and the colored pre-cast concrete panels of the parking structure.”
An Inviting Hub
The redevelopment effort was enhanced by a new city square park consisting of formal green space, a fountain pool (which doubles as a skating rink in the winter) and a pavilion building strategically located to provide a meeting hub for the community. The civic center complex lines the east edge of the park to form a strong visual connection to the Vehicle Engineering Center. Abutting the new city hall and library building is a tall, elegant clock tower reminiscent of traditional downtown buildings throughout Europe. The tower is capped with an internally lit glass lantern that functions as a beacon that can be seen for miles.
City officials agree that the new civic center is a more inviting administrative hub for city employees, the local business community and area residents. They also agree that it creates new opportunities for attracting additional business to the immediate area.
Enhancing the city’s image has been an important goal of Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh, who long has worked for a more defined downtown core area.
“I grew up and watched Warren become a city,” Steenbergh said. “Our citizens have been hungry for a place of identity. This project brings that to the city.”
This case history was provided by the Metal Initiative.