Tuesday, August 05, 2008

And While We're On the Subject of Parking

Just a brief thought experiment:

With the increase in gas prices, concern about the viability of foreign oil, and a collapsing housing market, one may suppose that there would be a return to denser, transit oriented development. If that happens, one of the first casualties, in my mind would be the parking garage.

The parking garage is a very specialized structure, serving exactly one purpose: to house automobiles while we're not driving them. They are usually very large structures, built of concrete, steal, and the occasional LED billboard, but all have the same function.

Now, I'm not suggesting that parking garages are suddenly going to be empty; the American desire to be a V-8 cowboy will probably never completely go away. I am suggesting, however, that if fewer people drive on a regular basis, operating parking garages becomes less profitable.

The result are old derelict structures, empty and taking up space. (Which, to be fair, is pretty much what most of the garages downtown look like anyway.)

So my questions are these: Are architects planning for the whole life cycle of these structures, i.e., what do they become after they fulfill their useful life? What do we do with the ones we may have coming up in the future? Can they become homes? Office buildings? Urban Farms? Or are we just going to end up with big ol' piles of rubble?

My mind flashes back to a probably apocryphal story about why the halls in the old buildings of Carnegie Mellon are sloped: if Tech failed as a school, Carnegie was planning to turn the buildings into workshops.

Do we have such foresight?

No comments: