Yes, cars are terrible for the environment and people’s health, but considering how few cities in America are truly designed for walking, parking lots remain necessary. So why not make them do more than just stick out like a giant concrete trophy for gridlock?
That’s the idea behind a recent parking garage-themed design contest organized by Combo Competitions that challenged participants “to turn something neglected into something celebrated.” It called for a multi-story garage with at least 250 spaces for New York City’s Hudson Yards development, a 18-million-square-foot office, retail, and residential complex under construction on the West Side of Manhattan. The twist: It couldn’t just be for parking. The design had to offer some sort of secondary function that would contribute to the neighborhood and benefit users. And for one design studio, that meant a parking lot that doubles as a cemetery.
Here’s what the winning designers came up with:
Jonathan Benner and John Bassett were inspired by the grandiosity of New York’s iconic transportation gateways, like Grand Central Station, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Penn Station (hopefully they’re talking about the original). The designers wanted to elevate the experience of walking through the garage to that level.
Once through the thick colonnade, the pedestrian is separated from the vehicular traffic and finds him/herself in a completely open and voluminous stair open to the sky above. We intended this space to be as generous and grand as possible to counter the predominant parking garage layout which isolates the stair core in a tight, dark corner of the garage.
The base of the building would house a farmers market, and the roof would features a garden sanctuary.
Designers Pedro Martins, Ana Santos, and Miguel Pereira take a unique route in proposing a secondary use for their garage. (Let’s face it, as much as we love farmers markets, they’re an easy design shortcut for “we care about the environment and the community!”) They suggest combining parking for cars with parking for the dead.
Below ground, the facility would offer cremation services. The bottom floors of the structure would be for parking, topped by an outdoor ceremonial space for those visiting their loved ones. Above that, a smaller structure, distinguished from the car park by arched columns and a greenery-lined facade, would house urns. The designers pragmatically observe that cemetery burials require more land than expanding urban populations can possibly accommodate. “Aren’t we allowed to linger in the city, where we lived out our lives, forever?” they ask. “If there isn’t enough space for both the living and the dead, and their cars, then an efficient metropolitan solution should be proposed.”
Designer Manson Fung imagines a car park that’s for more than just cars. “The system essentially is a large scale automatic storage system,” he writes. An automatic parking system uses elevators and sliding trays to arrange cars like a game of Tetris. Those trays could, in theory, house storage spaces, a greenhouse or garden, a pool, a pop-up market, or even chicken coops. The flexibility of the design means it could adapt as a community resource, even if the need for cars declines.
During the day, this garage, the brainchild of designers Will Fu and Logan Steele, accomodates 252 cars. At night, it becomes a drive-in movie theater with multiple multi-story screens, visible to both the people parked inside and to the surrounding neighborhood. (Whether the neighbors really want King Kong streaming in through their windows every night is another question.)