The recently opened Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571 in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood has a big job: Its purpose is to help strengthen the locals’ connection to the Chicago River.
Appropriately, the design of the boathouse buildings drew inspiration from the riverside site. The volumes by Studio Gang Architects total 19,003 square feet and span two structures—one for boat storage and one that serves as a training facility, with 57 ergonomic rowing machines and distinctive clerestory roofs. (The architects’ design for the latter was inspired by photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s 1880s stop-motion images of rowing.) Their shapes incorporate structural steel trusses at angles that echo the high and low positions of rowers’ oars. Using polycarbonate windows instead of glass in these clerestories helps in both lighting the building and reducing its heating demand in winter. In summer, the windows open, providing enough ventilation to eliminate the need for mechanical cooling.
According to Exterior Technologies (Extech), whose Lightwall 3440 was specified for the clerestories, the opalescent panels offer just 51 percent light transmission, compared with nearly 90 percent from a clear window. That’s how they’re able to “provide a softer, more diffused daylight and drastically reduce glare,” says Extech general manager Jim Leslie.