What would a world in which fewer people own cars look like? I’d never thought about the consequences until I came across this project: the conversion of a seven-story building in Peckham, London, from a dreadful parking garage into cool local business and community hub.
Carl Turner Architects worked with Makeshift–a company that designs and manages public spaces for local independent businesses–to turn seven levels of the building into creative studios, shared workshops, office space for co-working, 3D printing areas, and even kiln rooms–all useful spaces for small manufacturing companies, entrepreneurs, and artists. They also dedicated two levels of the repurposed space to communal areas accessible to the public, so tenants, neighbors, and visitors can mix and interact inside the space.
The project arose from a request from the neighborhood council, which asked for ideas for repurposing the disused levels. According to the architects, they envisioned the project as a “kunsthaus,” or “house of art,” that could serve as a social hub in the heart of this south London neighborhood. That’s why the common areas also include an event space that is free to use, a children’s play area with obstacle courses and soft surfaces, a music venue, a cafe, a yoga studio, and even a hair salon, plus a variety of bars and restaurants.
The project offers one useful answer to a simple question: what are we going to do with the millions of parking spaces and garages that will be left over, if car ownership drops dramatically due to the rise of shared vehicles or other forces?
I live in Madrid, and I only use electric cars that I rent by the minute through an app. It’s so fast and convenient, and combined with ever-increasing private car restrictions and the emergence of autonomous vehicle technology, I could see it becoming much more ubiquitous around the world–and with it, a future in which parking buildings become obsolete and empty very quickly. Projects like Peckham Levels offer one way to repurpose these buildings, which could bolster the community itself rather than its cars.