Can a Parking Garage Be Beautiful?

Dave Feehan

Conventional wisdom among downtown and business district managers is that most parking garages are best hidden away or disguised, and that too many are downright ugly. But can parking garages be beautiful? Can they actually contribute to urban design and urban fabric? Can they fit into an historic district or a gleaming collection of state-of-the-art office and residential towers?

As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might look at a very futuristic design and see beauty, while others might a structure that is jarringly out of place in relationship to its surrounding context. Some prefer simplicity while others prefer color and a more fanciful approach. Still, parking garages can be both functional and attractive, and a few recent examples are truly beautiful, even stunning.

Car Park One in Oklahoma City makes many of the “most beautiful lists, as do 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami and the Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Garage. There are also a number of European structures that show up on many lists (many have been showcased in The Parking Professional and in IPI’s annual Awards of Excellence competition—submissions for this year’s competition close soon.)

So what criteria should we use to judge the most beautiful garages? Here are a few I would suggest:

First, the garage must be visually striking. While many fine designs seek to make the structure relatively unobtrusive and nearly invisible, a garage must have a certain amount of attitude to be considered truly beautiful.

Second, it must be more than functional—it must be designed with users in mind, not just as an architectural statement.  Beauty is not just what you see from the street—it’s the feeling you get once you’re inside the garage.

Third, tasteful, thoughtful and effective use of color is important. We’ve seen way too many concrete brutalist designs and we’re living with these monstrosities today. Grey concrete is simply insufficient no matter how functional it might be.

You can check out some of the most lauded beautiful garages here.  Have you seen a particularly attractive garage lately? Let us know in the comments.

Parking Love List

Helen Sullivan

 

It’s no secret: I’m a bit fickle. I love some parking garages because they are extreme, some for their sheer physical beauty, some forP-HEART
their history, or because they are iconic, some for cutting-edge and just plain cool design, some for their intelligence, and some for being practical and sustainable. I have a particular soft spot for the ones that are artsy and have a poetic sensibility.

I am in the process of putting together a list of the parking structures I love best, and I’d like to meet a few new ones, too.  Please visit IPI’s Pinterest site to see photographs of a work-in-progress hot list of cool parking places:

  • 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami
  • Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
  • Santa Monica Civic Center, Santa Monica
  • Michigan Theater, Detroit
  • Autostadt Car Towers, Wolfsburg
  • Car Park One, Oklahoma
  • Greenway Self Park, Chicago
  • Eureka Carpark, Melbourne
  • Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum Parking Garage, Kansas City
  • The Poetry Garage, Chicago
  • Umihotaru, Tokyo
  • Parkhaus Zoo, Leipzig
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose
  • Marina City, Chicago

By the way, this is my personal list, not an officially IPI-sanctioned list!  But, we will be surveying parking professionals soon, and with your input, this list will grow. Please share names, places, and photos of  parking facilities with a big wow factor that you love  –  on Valentine’s Day, and beyond.

 

Precious and Invisible

Mark Wright

If you’ve seen “The Hobbit,” you’ll recall the scene in which Bilbo Baggins slips the gold ring on his finger and becomes invisible, thus eluding a creepy character named Gollum. Gollum, becoming more frustrated by the moment, searches for Bilbo — right beneath his nose — in vain, scrambling around and wailing.

If “The Hobbit” is new territory for you and you think Tolkien is something you might deposit into a parking garage pay slot, this will just sound weird, but bear with me here: the whole tale is really about parking. There are pride-fueled battles over sacred territory. There’s a key to a door no one can see. Wayfinding is complicated by a map that can only be read in moonlight. And walking paths are fraught with peril.

The movie reminds me of my recent site visit with a couple of colleagues to a massive parking facility in a major metro area to check out some safety features and pathway striping. Standing against a ground-level wall, we watched — wide-eyed — as drivers and pedestrians violated one another’s boundaries like so many orcs and elves, although no swords were drawn. Drivers ignored arrows. Pedestrians ignored clearly-marked safe paths of travel. The color-coded lines were right under their noses, but seemed invisible.

Unfortunately, the garage has no wizard on hand to impose order and point out steps to take to protect precious lives. This peaceful chaos echoes the movie scene in which the raucous-but-jolly dwarves invade Bilbo’s home and pretty much do whatever they want. I exaggerate slightly, but, really, the experience is an eye-opener.

Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum takes place in a confusing subterranean maze called the goblin tunnels. He’s glad to make his escape. I can relate to his relief. Like Bilbo, we emerged from this place surprised, changed, and wiser.

As Tolkien writes in The Hobbit (chapter 4):  “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.”

The EEB and Parking

Rachael Yoka

Have you heard of the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub at the Philadelphia Naval Yard?

It’s something you will want to know about. The EEB Hub, as it’s called, has a mission to improve energy efficiency in buildings and essentially create an industry for retrofitting existing buildings. The goal is ambitious: to reduce energy use in the U.S. commercial buildings sector by 20 percent by 2020. The EEB Hub hosts multiple international delegations a week to showcase the best technology and act as a living laboratory to test strategies, products, and operational practices.

This is already happening in the parking industry–parking garages are ripe for retrofits with energy-efficient lighting and solar panels to cut operational costs and optimize existing facilities. For many of these retrofits, we anxiously await the numbers: have they cut their electricity consumption (and utility bills) as predicted? Are the selected technologies and products operating as expected? What is the true payback period?

Energy management has gone mainstream and is becoming a key function of asset management. In IPI’s just-released Emerging Trends in Parking Survey, 60 percent of parking professionals surveyed said energy-efficient lighting had the greatest potential to improve sustainability. (A printed report of the survey will be bound into the July issue of The Parking Professional.) You may also want to read the Lighting Study conducted by IPI with the Department of Energy. We can easily make this jump in the parking industry, and it doesn’t take a new living laboratory to do it.

Do you have success stories (or challenges) from in retrofits or energy management to share? Leave a comment below!

So Much to Learn!

L. Dennis Burns

I told a friend at this year’s IPI Conference and Expo in Phoenix that I couldn’t believe how much I was learning.

The pace of technological innovation continues at breakneck speed, but even more fascinating is the creative application of these advancements in parking management and sustainable transportation initiatives. Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are all pursuing advanced programs that could redefine parking’s relationship with technology and our interaction with larger transportation and environmental disciplines. Somewhat ironically, despite the cutting-edge technologies and creative system design and integration, the basic elements of communication, customer service, and effective program management continue to be core issues that need to be addressed.

The innovation and product development of an increasingly diverse set of vendors and suppliers was really eye-opening. New products and services (not to mention professional colleagues) from around the globe were some of the most exciting elements of this year’s conference for me.

Equally impressive were the advancements in mid-sized municipal programs. At the top of this list are Michael Klein’s innovative program in Albany, the incredible turnaround of the Cedar Rapids parking program (now known as “Park Cedar Rapids,” led by Vanessa Rogers and Jon Rouse) following the devastating floods of 2008, and the City of Lincoln’s strong and steady progress in going from “Good to Great” under Ken Smith’s leadership. These programs show the depth and penetration of the industry’s progress.

Another key area changing how we are perceived is facility design: parking being “better integrated into the urban form” and designed with sustainability and economic development in mind. A great way to stay abreast of the innovation and industry advancement in these areas is the IPI Awards of Excellence program. Look for more on this year’s winners in the July issue of The Parking Professional.

One final note: The selection of Rachel Yoka as IPI’s Parking Professional of the Year was the perfect choice! Congratulations, Rachel!

All Roads Lead to Technology

EmergingTrends_100sq

According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

Rethinking Our Future

L. Dennis Burns

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and a feature about it for The Parking Professional [PDF], as well as a post here at the Parking Matters® Blog. Dr. Ben-Joseph makes many excellent points related to the importance and prominence of parking not only as a significant and necessary land use, but also the great potential that exists in rethinking it.

It is exciting to see the academic community beginning to recognize the significance of parking on so many levels. Donald Shoup, Ph.D., professor of urban planning at UCLA, deserves much credit for generating a greater awareness of parking to a broader audience.

Parking professionals today (I am proud to be considered one) routinely operate in a world of vision and scope that has expanded exponentially in the past decade. Parking is an exciting, multi-dimensional discipline that is more interesting, more varied, more relevant, and more valued than at any time in its history. Parking intersects with many other disciplines that today’s industry professionals are challenged to be fluent in; we know not only the fundamentals of parking management, but also those of related disciplines such as economic development, urban design, campus planning, sustainable transportation and brand development/communications, just to name a few.

Because of its importance, complexity, and specialized nature, the parking industry has two important challenges for the decade ahead: a need to prioritize education within the industry and to promote a greater awareness why Parking Matters® externally. I know that IPI has both of these priorities well in hand. The progress being made is truly exciting.

Thank you Dr. Ben-Joseph for helping to raise the level of discourse related to parking and for challenging all of us rethink how we do what we do.

Thinking Outside the Lot

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.

Guest blogger Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D. is professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and head, joint program in city design and development, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is author of Re-Thinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and of a feature in the May issue of The Parking Professional.

One look at a typical surface parking lot raises many questions: Can parking lots be designed in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing way? Can environmental considerations be addressed and adverse effects mitigated? Can parking lots provide more than car storage? Can they be integrated more seamlessly into our built environment in a way that is not only practical but also elegant and enjoyable? What can be learned from usage behavior and the manipulation of lots by unplanned-for users such as teens, food vendors, theater companies, and tailgating sport fans?

In the May issue of The Parking Professional [PDF], I offer thoughts from my book, ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. The book explores the origins of the surface lot and its influences on our culture; I think even the most mundane lot has potential to be much more. I argue, using the parking lot as an example, that molding everyday places though simple, generative interventions can transform the way we live and interact with our surroundings.

What is needed next is a renewed vision and exciting ideas for the 21st century parking lot. As a leading voice of the parking industry, the International Parking Institute champions new directions through its Awards of Excellence, which recognize outstanding design in parking. These awards encourage imagination and creativity that help find new solutions intrinsic to the function of the lot, but go beyond the typical aesthetic embellishments and illustrate potential for our future built environment. I am looking forward to hearing about this year’s winners in June.

What do you think can be done to encourage better design in surface lots?

 

The Magic of Transitional Places

L. Dennis Burns

Parking facilities are not merely temporary storage facilities for automobiles. They are also the interface or transition between the vehicular and pedestrian experience.

These modal intersections can be much more than utilitarian connection points. Consider train stations, which we associate with spectacular building forms and public areas. Union Station in Washington, D.C. and Grand Central Station in New York City come to mind as traditional examples. These environments are much more than simple transportation connection points; they have a special energy and excitement. In them, we transition from one point to another and there is a certain excitement related to movement, exploring new environments, the anticipation of a specific event, and the unknowns of a new place. All of these elements combine to create a special vitality. These places can capture and enhance the positive and magical elements that go along with being in the mode of journeying.

There are also many examples of how poorly-designed or maintained transitional places can lead to feelings of uncertainty, trepidation, and even fear. These types of experiences can have a dramatic effect on the overall experience, even if the final destination met all expectations.

Parking facilities are probably the most numerous and undervalued modal intersection points in the world. We should take a fresh look our facilities and how the experiences we generate have a direct bearing on businesses and functions that depend on us as their customer gateways.

Take a critical look at your parking facilities and re-imagine them as community gateways, designed to meet the special needs of sojourners transitioning from one mode of travel to another. The more we take on the ownership of our limited but critical segment of the journey, the more we enhance our value to our customers and our communities.

How are you enhancing your facility as a community gateway?

Parking Op-ed in the New York Times

Shawn Conrad

There was an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. I sent a letter to the editor of the New York Times (below) that supports IPI’s efforts to advance the parking profession. Look for a feature from Dr. Ben-Joseph in the May issue of The Parking Professional. I welcome your comments.

My Letter to Editor of the New York Times:

Thank you to Eran Ben-Joseph for bringing attention to the importance of parking in his New York Times op-ed, “When a Parking Lot is So Much More.”

The Survey of Emerging Trends in Parking conducted by the International Parking Institute last year found that many problems identified with parking facilities today could often have been solved had parking professionals been consulted earlier in the planning process. Well-planned parking can increase use of mass transportation, reduce the number of people commuting, encourage alternative travel methods and better utilize parking through shared use. There is a new generation of parking professionals with diverse expertise in urban planning, public policy, transportation, architecture and engineering who are making significant progress in improving parking through advanced technology, better design, and a focus on sustainability to create more aesthetic and livable communities.

Garage Design: How Far We’ve Come

Rachael Yoka

How far we have come from the monolithic, gray boxes of recent memory? Pretty darn far!

Did you know that a garage is on the list of the top 100 buildings in Florida, as proposed by the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects? It’s a people’s choice competition, so I suggest that all parking professionals vote for 1111 Lincoln Road.

1111 is the amazing new garage that doubles as a wedding, yoga, and meeting venue, with a Vanity Fair-featured residence on the roof. IPI featured the garage on the cover of the October 2011 issue of The Parking Professional [PDF], recognizing the new connections between functional parking and thought-provoking architecture. The Wall Street Journal also recognized the building, stating, “The structure—with thin concrete slabs at irregular heights and no exterior walls, leaving vehicles on open display—is more than a place to stash cars. It features luxury retailers at the street level, a glass box housing a clothing store on the fifth floor and a soaring space with stunning views on the seventh floor that can be rented for events—all connected by an internal staircase that spirals up like a DNA helix.”

How far we’ve come! To check out 1111 in the Florida AIA competition, click here: http://www.aiaflatop100.org.