Here’s a challenge from Eran Ben-Joseph: name a great parking lot.
Couldn’t do it, could you? Neither could I, and neither could Ben-Joseph. In a new book ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking he explores the horribleness of all that space that car drivers demand. If you look at North American cities in the 60s and 70s all you’ll see is a giant slab of pavement for automobiles instead of people. Today, those cities are dealing with the car-created destruction.
Where’s the good news in this? Well, Ben-Joseph’s book is all about finding ways to make these wastes of space practical and helpful to the areas around them. Some solutions might be to design a parking lot to serve the local community or to make these parking spots actually green.
So what can be done to make parking lots greener and better integrated into their civic surroundings? Ben-Joseph recommends a menu of ideas to improve parking lots according to their settings — which he regards as “a healthier approach to planning, rather than giving prescriptive ideas about how to design them.”
For one thing, planners might simply plant trees throughout parking lots, as the architect Renzo Piano did at Fiat’s Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy. Low-use parking lots need not be entirely paved in asphalt, either: Miami’s Sun Life Stadium features large areas of grass lots that are environmentally better year-round.
“The whole space does not have to be designed the same way,” Ben-Joseph says. “Overflow parking can be designed differently, and not paved with asphalt.”
Lots can also incorporate green technology. Some parking spaces in Palo Alto, Calif., have charging stalls for electric vehicles. A Walmart parking lot in Worcester, Mass., has 12 wind turbines that generate clean electricity for the store. The Sierra Nevada Brewery parking lot in Chico, Calif., has solar panels built into its lattice structure.