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Wed 18.8.

Right on So Many Levels: innovative car-park design

Posted by Nora Schmidt on 18.08.2010 - Tagged as: , , , ,

The 1929 Michigan Theater in Detroit now serves as a parking lot, the disonnance between its architecture and current usage symptomatic of the former industrial boom city's inexorable decline; photo Sean Hemmerle

When Joni Mitchell sang that ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot’, she neatly expressed our none-too-positive relationship with that most modern of building types, the car park. Architonic invites you to pull up to the bumper and take a look at a number of recent parking-garage projects that attempt to put a bit of love back into it all.

Elliott + Associates Architects: Car Park One's mesh skin, reflecting the sun; photo Scott McDonald and Hedrich Blessing

The news that preservationists have finally lost their protracted battle to save Gateshead’s Trinity Square car park from demolition will, no doubt, sadden the hearts of the architecturally inclined. The brutalist, multi-storey garage, designed by the Owen Luder Partnership and completed in 1967, has enjoyed an iconic status ever since it featured in the British cult film classic ‘Get Carter’ of 1971. Trinity Square was guaranteed a place in the popular-cultural imagination the moment Jack Carter (played by Michael Caine) was first seen throwing developer Cliff Brumby to his death from one of the structure’s stair towers, Simon Henley reminds us in his book ‘The Architecture of Parking’.

Herzog & de Meuron: The decks, columns and ramps at 1111 Lincoln Road are all formed from concrete slabs; photo Christian Richters

The seamy underworld of English gangsters aside, it’s fair to say that, as far as building types go, car parks rank fairly low on the list of structures loved by the public at large – particularly when expressed in an above-ground, monolithic, concrete form. Maybe it’s something to do with their bald, singular function, their necessary evilness. You park your car there, because you need to park it somewhere. But do we really need to look at them? Comments on design blogs like Dezeen that describe architectural projects as looking like garages come, then, as no surprise. (A certain blogger called James recently likened internationally renowned Basel-based practice Herzog & de Meuron’s proposed design for a new apartment block in Beirut as looking like a ‘multi story carpark with a few windows’.)

Austrian practice X Architekten's formally expressive car park for Linz-based steel company voestalpine; photo David Schreyer

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