Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, 24th ISUF 2017 - City and Territory in the Globalization Age

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Second life of great American parking garages: Exploring the potential of adaptive reuse of urban parking structures in the American cities
Ming-Chun Lee, Manasi Bapat

Last modified: 14-05-2018


The structure of American cities has been greatly influenced and transformed with the onset of the car culture and its ever evolving impacts to the everyday life of American people. The early 1900’s experienced a noticeable growth in the demand and need for automobiles resulting in the increasing need for parking spaces in the city. Eventually, multi-level parking garages were built to suffice this requirement of the ever-growing city. However, increase of parking spaces around urban fringes; raise in gas prices; better public transit options in downtown cores; growing public awareness of reducing automobile dependence in order to address issues of sustainability; advancement in autonomous vehicles and demand-based traffic management, all are making existing parking garages obsolete and useless. The era of designing cities as if car access alone was sufficient appears to have ended. An opportunity lies where the existing underused parking garages can be repurposed into residential, entertainment, or work spaces rather than paying up for demolition and construction costs of an altogether new structure. It can be projected that this technical and architectural retrospection of existing parking garages can prove as a catalyst in resolving existing issues of the city. This paper traces past projects that have attempted to convert existing urban parking garages to other uses in North America. It then analyzes their design and construction approaches and discusses the implications of this type of conversion to the urban form of the areas surrounding these projects. Our initial investigation concludes with an analytical framework that includes the following criteria: type of garage structure; vertical circulation and ramp configuration; material and construction method; floor plan arrangement; size in relation to block and street orientation; surrounding area condition in terms of land use and street network. Furthermore, implications of garage conversion to urban form of surroundings can be examined by these measures: remediation of building façade; alternation in setback between public right of way and building footprint; change in active usage along building frontage.

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