Car parks are cool

Box Architects CEO Architect Graham Place has described how award-winning car park design is bringing ‘a moment of improved existence’ to city dwellers.

His comments come as nominations opened for the 2021 British Car Park Awards (who knew?). Citing recent winners and the Victoria Gate car park near Box’s studios in Leeds, which has been named third ‘coolest’ in the world, Graham said: “Successful buildings are vibrant, happy and healthy places to be, and that applies just as much to car parks.

“For the people who use car parks, it is a fleeting experience – they arrive, park and may not return for hours. Nevertheless, multi-storey car park design still offers us, as architects, the opportunity to bring a moment of improved existence.”

This ‘improved existence’, adds Graham, involves good lighting, clear wayfinding, and safe access and exit. However, for users and the wider community, it also means good ventilation in an exhaust-filled environment (while at the same time protecting users from wind and rain) and the prevention of light-spill pollution from vehicle headlights.

Graham believes the considered use of architectural façades can address these challenges but also enhance the user experience. “Victoria Gate proves how it is done. The building positions itself in the city centre like a beacon of progressive thinking, reflecting the forward-looking nature of the city and its residents. How has it done this? Its façade.

“There is nothing exceptional about the car park. It is concrete, with ramps and stairs and lifts and all the other things you would expect. But the clever use of materials reflect the light and present a beautiful array of patterns and textures. Through its clever façade design and treatment, the building has become something akin to a piece of art.”

He added: “Whatever your feelings about encouraging car use in our cities, this building’s exceptional exploitation of its façade through the innovative use of materials has resulted in a building worthy of comment; a building that brings something new to the make-up of the city and will, I believe, make its own positive contribution to the lives of the people that use and view it.”

“Multi-storey car park design still offers us, as architects, the opportunity to bring a moment of improved existence.”

Graham Place, CEO, Box Architects