the world's most visited architecture website

Complexity Via Simplicity: Urbana's Parking Structure Facade

Asked to design an interactive facade for an existing parking structure at the new Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis, Urbana principle Rob Ley had a conundrum to deal with: "With Indianapolis’ really extreme weather patterns, we gave a lot of thought to: how can we make something that’s interactive but won’t be broken in a year?” he told the Architect's Newspaper. “Unfortunately, the history of kinetic facades teaches us that that they can become a maintenance nightmare."

His solution came from turning the question on its head - how could they design and fabricate a static facade that appears to change when the viewer moves? The resulting design appears highly complex, while in fact using aluminum fins bent at just three different angles. Find out more about the challenges of fabricating this facade, and inserting it into an existing structure, through the video above or at the Architect's Newspaper Fabrikator blog.

JAJA Designs "Park 'N' Play" Parking Garage in Copenhagen

With the intention of creating a beautiful public space from what is usually a one-function building, JAJA architects are redefining what a parking deck can be. Their recent competition entry for a parking garage in the city of Nordhavn, Copenhagen is an inviting structure that incorporates green facades and a rooftop playground, making full use of its placement in an up-and-coming urban neighborhood. Read all about the aptly named “Park ‘N’ Play”, after the break.

The Rooftop Playground. Image © JAJA Architects A Closeup of the Stairs. Image © JAJA Architects The Entrance. Image © JAJA Architects Night View. Image © JAJA Architects

Could Detroit's Most Remarkable Ruin Finally Have a Future?

Originally posted on the Huffington Post's Home Section as "How a Historic Movie Palace Became America's Most Unusual Parking Garage," this article tells of both the history and the possible future of the Michigan Theater - once one of Detroit's most opulent nights out, but now a crumbling (albeit oddly magnificent) parking garage. Emblematic of the city's rapid decline, it turns out the recently-purchased Michigan Theater may also be a symbol of the city's regeneration.

An inventor's workshop. A movie palace. A rock club. A car park. A skate park. The backdrop for Eminem videos. Now it's one of America's strangest parking garages, but a peek inside the Michigan Theatre reveals why it's remained a landmark -- and has a unique story that explains a lot about the importance of preserving cities' historic architecture.

The former theater is attached to the Michigan Building, a partially occupied office tower, and might look familiar to some who have sought out urban decay photos. There's something radically visceral about cars parked in the garage under the crumbling but ornately decorated ceilings of the site that in its heyday hosted legends like the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Doris Day.

Read more on the theater's unusual, inspiring story after the break

Four Practices Re-Envision Parking in Long Island Downtowns

Parks and Rides. Image © Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design and the Long Island Index
Parks and Rides. Image © Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design and the Long Island Index

Long Island’s downtowns have more than 4,000 acres of surface area dedicated to parking lots. That’s roughly 6.5 square miles of prime real estate, a phenomenon quite common in most American cities. When necessary, these lots are often exchanged for a standard “set of concrete shelves” that share little to no connection with their surroundings. This leads to the question, why must parking garages be so monofunctional and, well, ugly?

To help solve this nationwide issue, the Long Island Index challenged four leading architectural firms to envision a more innovative way to free up surface lot space in four Long Island communities. 

See what they came up with, after the break...

Designing Parking Garages For a Car-less Future

This intriguing article on The Atlantic Cities highlights a growing trend as cities become more focused on pedestrians, bicycles and public transportparking garages that are designed with alternative uses in mind. Developers are ensuring that these garages have "good bones", such as comfortable ceiling heights, that will allow them to be easily converted into apartments or offices in a future when many city-dwellers don't own cars. You can read the full article here.

The World's 10 Coolest Car Parks

Parking garages generally have a bad reputation - particularly now that cars are seen as such an environmentally unfriendly way to travel, not to mention the fact that they are often unattractive utilitarian structures. To counteract this common perception, the website Stress Free Airport Parking has launched an award for the World's Coolest Car Park. Read on after the break to find out which 10 parking structures have been shortlisted for the top award.

Ballet Valet Parking Garage in Miami, USA. Via Flickr CC user. Image Courtesy of Xavier de Jauréguiberry Parc des Celestins in Lyon, France. Via Flickr CC user. Image Courtesy of Xavier de Jauréguiberry Michigan Theatre in Detroit, USA. Via Flickr CC user. Image © Pikturewerk Charles Street in Sheffield, UK. Via Flickr CC user. Image © Sofia Gk

Must Parking Garages Be So Ugly?

In his column in Providence JournalDavid Brussat questions why parking garages can't be designed to better compliment their surroundings. He believes that these utilitarian spaces should look like they "belong in a city," rather than resembling "a giant set of concrete shelves." He also examines cities which achieve this aim - incorporating styles from Art Deco to Neo-classical - and comes to the interesting conclusion that Richmond, Virginia is the "mecca of parking decks." You can read the full article here.

Parking is Hell (But Designers Can Help)

Most parking is free - but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a high cost. A recent podcast from Freakonomics Radio examined parking in US cities, investigating the “cost of parking not paid for by drivers” - a cost paid not just by the government, but by the environment - due to congestion and pollution caused by people searching for kerbside parking. For example, in a 15 block area of Los Angeles the distance traveled by drivers looking for parking is equivalent to one trip across the USA per day.

One potential solution which they discuss is a San Francisco project called SF Park, which makes use of sensor technology to measure the demand for parking in certain areas of the city and adjust price according to demand. In theory, this would create a small number of empty spaces on each block and dramatically reduce the time that many drivers spend cruising for parking spaces.

Though the idea is certainly an intelligent approach to the problem of kerbside parking, unsurprisingly all this talk of supply, demand and pricing sounds very much like an economist's answer to a problem. But what can designers do to help the situation?

Perhaps, from the designer’s point of view, the real problem with kerbside parking and surface lots is that they are always seen as a provision “coupled with” a building or area of the city. There have been a number of attempts by architects – some successful and some tragically flawed – to make parking spaces less of a rupture in a city's fabric and more of a destination in themselves. Could these point to another way?

Read about 3 examples of parking’s past, and one of its potential future, after the break...

The International Parking Institute 2010 Awards

The International Parking Institute (IPI) has announced the winners of their 2010 International Parking Institute’s Awards of Excellence Competition. Each year, the competition recognizes world-class examples of parking design and program innovation.

This year’s winners reflect a parking industry trend toward sustainability with many of the projects incorporating LEED certification, energy efficient lighting, use of solar panels, advanced technologies and innovative approaches that reduce the need for more parking spaces.

To see all the winners, click here. The three awards of excellence after the break.