Predominately slapdash solutions to a basic need, parking structures do not have a reputation as a thing of beauty. The good news is a few architects are driving up the ante—bent on making the ugly car park a thing of the past. The seven parking solutions here include a hospital garage that never looks the same, a house with a stunning enclosed parking area that speaks to its architectural language, a tennis court that hides a Batcave-worthy collection of cars, and a facade with diamond-shaped openings spilling out light like a lantern.
1. Firm: Elliott Associates Architects
Project: Car Park 4 for Chesapeake Energy Corporation
Location: Oklahoma City
Standout: The fourth in a series of standout parking garages for Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Car Park 4 conceals nearly 1,500 parking spaces within a striking structure defined by colored tube lighting and aluminum extrusions. White aluminum lattice appears to shift as you walk past it, while an aluminum veil stretched over structural concrete becomes a play on shadow and light. Entry portals stand out in cheery yellow. On the roof, cold cathode lighting illuminates structural columns rising to form an atrium colonnade, with a magenta glow seen for miles.
2. Firm: Vardastudio
Project: Desi residence
Location: Tala, Cyprus
Standout: Enclosing a parking area, vertical timber louvers provide shading and security for this hilltop house, in dramatic contrast with the bleached concrete volume of living space. Instead of a cumbersome add-on, the parking area becomes essential to the language of the structure, which drops down to soak up panoramic views of the sea to the south.
3. Firm: Urbana Studio
Project: Parking garage for Eskenazi Hospital
Standout: A field of 7,000 angled metal panels with an east/west color strategy creates a dynamic façade system for the parking garage at Eskenazi Hospital. Painted a deep blue color on one side and a golden yellow color on the other, the metal panels vary in size and angle, and appear to shift and change in color and transparency according to the angle of the viewer. The result: A dramatic canvas that never appears quite the same.
4. Firms: Pohl Rosa Pohl (facade); Walter P. Moore (structural renovation)
Project: Helix Garage
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Standout: Instead of demolishing this 1966 building, long considered an eyesore, local architecture firm Pohl Rosa Pohl designed a new facade based on a system of suspended and perforated steel panels. Each of three layers has a different panel shape, the interior two layers playing off the exterior layer. At night is when the facade really comes to life, with LED backlighting that shifts color to display a theatrical light show. The LEDs can also be programmed for colors in tune to local events and holidays.
5. Firms: IwamotoScott Architecture with Leong Leong and artist John Baldessari
Project: City View Garage
Standout: Challenged to create a parking structure ventilated without air conditioning for for a mixed-use building also including office and retail space, IwamotoScott Architecture wrapped the main corner of the garage with a a digitally-fabricated metal screen. Folded aluminum modules create diamond-shaped openings for air. At night, light spills out with a lantern-like glow.
6. Firm: Molecule
Project: Wayne Residence
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Standout: A traditionally-styled brick house hides a sleek parking area—suitable for a super hero, the architects say—underneath a turf lid installed in the tennis court. Ceramic floor tiles and an illuminated ceiling grid create a Batcave-worthy backdrop for the owner's car collection.
7. Firm: 5468796 Architecture
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Standout: Sometimes the best parking design is that what you can't see. In this 18-unit housing development, vehicular access and parking for residents is discretely incorporated into a shared plaza—cast-concrete level that lifts the wood-framed residences one floor off the ground. The plaza construction also allows for pockets of green space and small patios.