Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Parking Lots: Possibilities Beneath the Surface

It is often said that the lowest and worst land use is surface parking. So why does the US have so much of it, and could it be used for something other than just parking? These are some of the questions that Michael Kimmelman asks in a New York Times article Paved, but Still Alive.
"There are said to be at least 105 million and maybe as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States. A third of them in parking lots, those asphalt deserts that we claim to hate but that proliferate for our convenience."
He goes on to explain that, at the very least, we should take these spaces more seriously, architecturally, and use them as public spaces. Kimmelman writes about Parking Day, a global event started around 2005 that invites anybody and everybody to transform metered spaces. For me it brings to mind Cyclovia, a world wide effort to turn streets into part-time passive parks part of the time.

In a competition to adaptively reuse shopping malls, Kimmelman cites one planning firm's approach to parking lots:
"Interboro noticed that the parking lot was quietly being used as a depot and stop by bus lines. A hot dog truck had set up shop there. Patrons at a drive-through McDonald’s ate in their parked cars. Truckers slept there overnight. The Fishkill flea market took over on weekends, and a graphic design firm and a couple of banks and a post-office processing center converted vacant mall stores into offices. In short, said Daniel D’Oca, one of Interboro’s partners, 'what looked dead wasn’t, but you would have missed it if you just passed by it with a predisposed idea about sprawl.'"

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