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Above the Lot

Above the Lot

  • In Santa Monica, Calif., Brooks  Scarpa renovated eight parking garages surrounding the Third Street Promenade, a popular shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district. To improve the pedestrian experience, the firm left large expanses of the façade open for art and cultural installations, including Cradle by design and fabrication studio Ball-Nogues.

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    In Santa Monica, Calif., Brooks Scarpa renovated eight parking garages surrounding the Third Street Promenade, a popular shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district. To improve the pedestrian experience, the firm left large expanses of the façade open for art and cultural installations, including Cradle by design and fabrication studio Ball-Nogues.

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    John Edward Linden

    In Santa Monica, Calif., Brooks + Scarpa renovated eight parking garages surrounding the Third Street Promenade, a popular shopping, restaurant, and entertainment district. To improve the pedestrian experience, the firm left large expanses of the façade open for art and cultural installations, including Cradle by design and fabrication studio Ball-Nogues.

  • The Santa Monica parking garages by Brooks  Scarpa

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    The Santa Monica parking garages by Brooks Scarpa

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    John Edward Linden

    The Santa Monica parking garages by Brooks + Scarpa.

  • Clarke Caton Hintz specified extensive glazing and precast construction for the 3,400-space Terminal C Parking Garage to strengthen its aesthetic connection to Newak Liberty International Airport.

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    Clarke Caton Hintz specified extensive glazing and precast construction for the 3,400-space Terminal C Parking Garage to strengthen its aesthetic connection to Newak Liberty International Airport.

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    Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    Clarke Caton Hintz specified extensive glazing and precast construction for the 3,400-space Terminal C Parking Garage to strengthen its aesthetic connection to Newak Liberty International Airport.

  • The extensive use of glass allows pedestrians to stay engaged with the airport's activities.

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    The extensive use of glass allows pedestrians to stay engaged with the airport's activities.

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    Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    The extensive use of glass allows pedestrians to stay engaged with the airport's activities.

  • Designed by Clarke Caton Hintz, the Ruppert Plaza Garage in New York blends into the surrounding environment and hosts the Macombs Dam Park on its roof. Pedestrian bridges built over a berm connect the park with the neighboring Heritage Park.

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    Designed by Clarke Caton Hintz, the Ruppert Plaza Garage in New York blends into the surrounding environment and hosts the Macombs Dam Park on its roof. Pedestrian bridges built over a berm connect the park with the neighboring Heritage Park.

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    Jeffrey Totaro for Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    Designed by Clarke Caton Hintz, the Ruppert Plaza Garage in New York blends into the surrounding environment and hosts the Macombs Dam Park on its roof. Pedestrian bridges built over a berm connect the park with the neighboring Heritage Park.

  • Bridges and ramps help pedestrians navigate the elevation changes between the parks and the stadium.

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    Bridges and ramps help pedestrians navigate the elevation changes between the parks and the stadium.

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    Jeffrey Totaro for Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    Bridges and ramps help pedestrians navigate the elevation changes between the parks and the stadium.

  • The Ruppert Plaza Garage from the street level

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    The Ruppert Plaza Garage from the street level

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    Jeffrey Totaro for Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    The Ruppert Plaza Garage from the street level.

  • The brick veneer on the precast spandrels are finished in four hues of green to help the structure complement the natural environment.

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    The brick veneer on the precast spandrels are finished in four hues of green to help the structure complement the natural environment.

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    Jeffrey Totaro for Courtesy Clarke Caton Hintz Architects

    The brick veneer on the precast spandrels are finished in four hues of green to help the structure complement the natural environment.

  • For the 40-space, automated vehicle storage system at One York, a residential building in New York by Ten Arquitectos, Park Plus installed a palletless comb exchange that can convey a car from its parking space to its driver within a minute.

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    For the 40-space, automated vehicle storage system at One York, a residential building in New York by Ten Arquitectos, Park Plus installed a palletless comb exchange that can convey a car from its parking space to its driver within a minute.

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    Courtesy Park Plus

    For the 40-space, automated vehicle storage system at One York, a residential building in New York by Ten Arquitectos, Park Plus installed a palletless comb exchange that can convey a car from its parking space to its driver within a minute.

 

Logistically, parking structure designs must fulfill several requirements. Parking geometries are based on the sizes, heights, and turning radii of contemporary automobiles, which in turn determine the road and individual parking space dimensions as well as the structure’s floor-to-ceiling heights. Zoning dictates the number of spaces, and traffic flow on the surrounding streets determines entrance and exit placements. Many structures also incorporate spaces to accommodate staff and maintenance facilities, offices, and tollbooths. Ventilation systems to exhaust vehicular emissions are also critical, and even more so for underground or semi-enclosed garages.

A parking garage design team—typically comprising an architect, civil engineer, and structural engineer—has a fairly standardized kit of parts at its disposal. The kit includes basic ramp configurations, such as dedicated spiral “up” and “down” ramps, or the more common interior two-way cutback ramps.

The de facto structural systems include steel, poured-in-place concrete, and pre-cast concrete, all with standardized bay dimensions. In short, a team can design and construct a cost-effective, self-sustaining, efficient, long-lasting, and low-maintenance facility without reinventing the wheel—and without exploring new ways that the facility can benefit its environment.

In this conventional—albeit simplified—design process, the architect does little more than stamp the engineer’s drawings. And by and large, the parking garage construction industry remains content with the status quo.

A Better Neighbor
“Parking garages lost the magic—the potential to be better civic buildings—and became blight in our cities,” Scarpa says. He notes exceptions such as Paul Rudolph’s Temple Street Parking Garage in New Haven, Conn., which “is better architecturally, [but] even that [structure] didn’t house any uses that contributed to the urban fabric,” he says. “Today, there’s an effort to make garages that are part of the urban fabric.”

While the basic functional requirements of parking structures cannot be ignored, architects can design neighborhood-friendly facilities by adding programming that goes beyond housing cars. Commercial or institutional space on the structure’s ground floor perimeter can minimize pedestrian dead zones. Including other modes of transit in the facility, such as bus or light rail links, increases pedestrian activity throughout the day, as do visitor amenities such as public restrooms and local information stations.

These additions to building programs work both in new construction as well as in renovations. Brooks + Scarpa recently retrofitted eight parking garages surrounding the popular Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. “The garages were typical of the 1970s,” Scarpa says. “Just there to house cars.”

These concrete behemoths total more than 2 million square feet, so to transform them into pedestrian-friendly destinations in the downtown region, the firm worked with the city to replace some ground-floor, perimeter parking spaces with 8-foot-deep, kiosk-style retail shops. They also implemented a bicycle rental program alongside the retail space at the garages’ northeast and southwest corners and improved pedestrian access by adding new exterior stair towers that open the structures’ five levels to the street. Venice, Calif.–based Cliff Garten Studio designed a system of color coding on the structures’ ceilings and sculptural signage to improve wayfinding.

The garages also received an exterior makeover. New façades comprising patterned, textured screens of cement board panels maintain the required 50-percent openness for natural ventilation while breaking up the mass of the structures. LED lighting on the garages’ interiors and exteriors increases safety at night. The architects also left large portions of the façade open for a public art program, which turns the structures into giant canvases for art and cultural installations. A future phase of the project will add 1,000 solar panel–outfitted canopies to the roof, providing both electricity and shade for vehicles.