Architecture & Engineering

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How is architectural design changing the face of parking?

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Parking presents a unique opportunity to explore architectural aesthetics without the limitations presented by typical requirements for building enclosure.  Without these restrictions, parking structures offer a freedom of expression including exposed structural forms, unique applications of materials, and façades that employ concepts of light and shadow.

In the early 1960s, parking garages were typically designed simply to store cars for commercial use.  At that time they were considered merely accessory structures.  Many of today’s building codes and zoning ordinances still refer to parking garages as accessory structures.   It was acceptable to consider parking strictly utilitarian in nature.

However, over the last two decades, it is now recognized that the exterior aesthetic is critically important to the surrounding neighborhood. If the garage is a blank slate, there will be little activity or interest in the area – becoming a “dead zone”. An activated street, due to an inspired façade design, that is lit well and has lots of foot-traffic, will feel safer. Designers are incorporating details to enhance the environment, improving safety from a variety of elements: better, more even lighting; increased visibility and lines of sight; glass backed elevators and open, well-lit stairwells.

Most recently, the importance of aesthetically pleasing design has advanced into the interior of the garage as well. It is understood that the garage is the first impression of a location.  This includes exterior signage, interior signage, and graphics along with lobby design.  Lobbies have become well-lit spaces with interesting wall materials, tile floors, decorative ceilings, and incorporate technology meant to inform and provide wayfinding.

The function is still critical to the success of both the architecture and the business of parking, but the value and impact of the façade and interior design has been recognized for its inherent worth on the human experience. And happy people will come back and park again, shop again, and eat again.

*Federal, State, and Local codes govern most of these requirements and should be thoroughly investigated. Data presented herein should be considered guidelines only.  For more specific information and assistance with the implementation of these guidelines, please contact TimHaahs via email at