Skip to content

Fired up and functional; new Silver Ramp has a terracotta façade

When designing the exterior of the new Silver parking ramp at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), architects considered both aesthetics and function.

Because runways are situated on either side of the 11-story parking ramp currently under construction at Terminal 1, the materials used for the ramp must minimize interference with radar operations on MSP’s airfield.
To accomplish that, Miller Dunwiddie -- a Minneapolis-based architectural firm and part of the team that designed the ramp -- worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to identify a suitable, non-metal material for the ramp’s façade.
The solution: thousands of 2-inch by 2-inch- terracotta “baguettes” -- each slightly more than 6-feet long -- attached to the ramp’s exterior to provide a refined-yet-shimmering appearance.
Installation of the kiln-fired baguettes began in June and will continue into January of 2020.
The Silver Ramp is located in a busy area, where drivers make numerous lane and turn decisions as they drive adjacent to the ramp.
The ramp’s design included “aesthetic goals of having the ramp fit into the overall nature of the campus and be a backdrop to the new hotel,” said Monica Bettendorf Hartberg, the principal architect on the project from Miller Dunwiddie, where she is also the president and CEO. “The ramp’s façade has simplicity and a calming quality to it.”
The specially designed rectangular tubes are glazed in four colors – black, gray, light blue and white. They have a porcelain appearance on the outside and a fiberglass core that doesn’t impede radar function. The colors and gradient of the baguettes are meant to evoke the experience of flying into the clouds and the space between earth and sky.
All told, 57,758 individual baguettes are being attached to the ramp – placed on a total of 1,611 panels (one pictured above) and covering about 177,000 square feet of the ramp’s exterior – the equivalent of approximately three football fields.
PCL Construction and its team of subcontractors working on the ramp created an efficient process to install the materials. The individual baguettes are assembled into a panelized system locally with careful attention to placement of the colors to create the variation seen on the façade. 
Each panel, roughly 20’-0”x 6’-6”, is attached to the ramp structure with a carefully spaced metal framework to respect the requirements of the radar systems in use at the airport. 
While the exterior work will give the ramp an increasingly finished appearance over the next several months, construction work continues inside. The core of the building will include a new customer service area for rental car services and space for public transit functions.
The Silver Ramp will open in the spring of 2020, bringing a net of 5,000 additional parking spaces to Terminal 1.