Parking garages have not typically been thought of as works of art. These days however, the aesthetics of a city determine the allure for visitors and tourists. Public buildings and residences alike have moved away from cold concrete structures and into buildings that are not only environmentally friendly, but visually stunning as well. For many older countries like Rome and Italy, space becomes very important.
In Wolfsburg Germany, the Autostadt Car Towers remind one of a scene from Star Wars. This structure is not a public garage, but houses newly minted Volkswagen vehicles. Looking down from the top at seemingly endless car spaces, the world of George Jetson appears to have finally arrived. Thinking about the future of urban planning, structures like these could become common place for the average driver. Instead of driving cars around precarious pillars as others race in the opposite direction trying to make it on-time to their next appointments, owners could instead turn their vehicles over to robotic valet attendants. Cars would then be gently elevated and placed in safe shelf-like compartment until their owners returned. This type of parking structure would also practically eliminate theft of vehicles or personal belongings which would be an additional benefit to the space saving design.
At the Santa Monica Civic Center in the United States, the parking garage there has been transformed into a light box show of colors that disguises its functionality. When architects create a building that is both functional and pleasing to the eye, it improves a city and the lives of its people in exponential ways. This civic center garage was also the first LEED certified parking structure as of 2008. Building to LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines enables this building to produce much of its own energy needs through solar panels on the roof, and to control its climate through a natural ventilation system.
Staying in the US for another tour, a garage that speaks to conservation and art in different way is the Michigan Theater parking garage in Detroit. Evoking historical images from a time gone by, the theater was once the hub of culture and art in this industrial city. Having fallen into disrepair, the theater itself was partially gutted and at some point the shell turned into a standard parking garage shelter. Reusing the building in this modern context is better for the environment than tearing it down and starting over. It’s also better for the history of the city and the visitors that come through to learn about its past. Buildings lost their ornate designs and carvings as they entered the 20th century, and any structures that we can keep around to remind us of the architectural beauty of that era are desirable.
Travelling by motor car isn’t going away anytime soon. Although many would like to see a larger transition to bus, subway or train systems that would help reduce Co2 emissions, people remain attracted to the freedom of the personal vehicle. Folks would rather create zero emission cars than move to group forms of transportation. Hence, parking garages and places to house current and future vehicles will remain important aspects of a viable city that attracts tourists and residents alike. More info: Parking Garage Design