Some are innovative, some are majestic, but each of these parking lots is something special.
Parking lots are usually dull, dreary, and rather uninspiring places to be. They’re also more often than not infuriating, either because they’re a maze to navigate, or because you spend what feels like hours circling around before finding a parking space, only to find some idiot on a motorbike has it occupied. But some parking lots are better than others, and we’ve found 10 of the coolest parking lots from across the world. From design innovation to environmentally friendly, these ten places to park your ride are all unique or iconic for one reason or another.
You’ve watched The Hunter, right? The 1980 film starring Steve McQueen in which he chases a suspect up 19 spiraling floors of parking before said suspect loses control and careens off the parking structure’s top floor into the Chicago river? Well that tower is one of two identical spirals that form the base of the Marina City towers. 19 floors of continuous spiraling parkade, housing 896 parking bays, might either provoke a serious bout of car sickness, or just cause you to forget where you parked. Fortunately, the parking complex, which sits below the towers containing offices, shops, and apartments, were valet-operated. Architect Bertrand Goldberg designed the complex in 1959, and construction was completed in 1968 as Marina City became the tallest residential building in the world.
On the banks of the Rhine river in Germany, the Rheinauhafen Parking Tunnel serves a dual purpose. At 2.5 miles in length, it’s Europe’s longest underground parking tunnel, which painfully only has three entrances. It opened in 2003 after engineers spent 15 months on the project. The second purpose of the Rheinauhafen is that it acts as surge flood protection. The Rhine is known for bursting its banks, with a 1995 flood having surged the river by 23 feet. The Rheinauhafen has been engineered to be impenetrable up to 37 feet, ensuring no flood breaks the banks in Cologne, Germany.
Built on the Kisazaru artificial floating island and surrounded by 360-degrees of water, the Umihotaru Parking Area stands 5 stories tall, with the first three occupied by parking, and the upper decks occupied by commercial facilities. The Umihotaru Parking Area is designed to look like a cruise ship, and is a rest stop along the aqua-line, Japan’s longest underwater tunnel that took 30 years to complete. Umihotaru provides exceptional views of Tokyo Bay, with numerous shops and restaurants aboard the floating complex.
Remember that scene in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the one where Twinkie takes Sean to see his car and the carousel brings car after car until his arrives? Well the parking carousels of Tokyo are real. The premise is simple, you drive into what appears to be a single garage, and after you exit the car is whisked away on a carousel and stored in a vertical tower. It seems like science fiction, but when you live in a country as space-challenged as Japan, sometimes the only way to go is up.
Much like the parking carousels of Tokyo, automated parking setups found throughout Dubai present a unique way of solving the issue of not enough parking space in a place dominated by luxury cars. As above, you drive into a single parking space in a garage, but instead of vehicles being cycled vertically, they’re carried away by robotic arms that then stow them securely in massive stacks – reducing time you have to search for a parking, minimizing the space required for parking lots, and reducing emissions too that would’ve damaged the environment had you idled around a lot looking for an open space. There’s also no risk of damage due to unsighted exiting from a bay, or due to pedestrians in the parking lot.
While most modern parking lots are modern design masterpieces and odes to the future or environmental awareness, the Michigan Theater in Detroit pays homage to decay and the beauty you find in it. What was once a decadent French renaissance styled was closed and scheduled for demolition, but engineers feared that its destruction would destabilize surrounding buildings, so they repurposed it instead. It now acts as a macabre cross between crumbling ruin and a grandiose display of excess, whilst being utilized for a most utilitarian purpose.
What gives the Michigan Theater even more allure is that it’s located on the site of what was originally the garage where Henry Ford built his first automobile.
Imagine walking up to a vending machine, punching in your order, and a few seconds later a new car is delivered out the front of it, with zero delivery mileage on the odometer to make you truly the first to drive your own car. Well that’s what Volkswagen’s Autostadt silos do in Wolfsburg, Germany. These silo-like buildings house new cars built at the Wolfsburg factory, and await customer collection. For an added sensation of immersion, you can take a tour of the Autostadt in which you sit in a glass pod that gets moved around by robotic arms, just like the cars do.
More commonly known as the EPA Experimental Parking Lot, the EPA’s Experimental Permeable Pavement Parking Lot and Rain Garden for Stormwater Managerment in Edison, New Jersey, is a 110-car capacity lot for staff and visitors that serves a dual purpose of experimenting with various types of construction to reduce the impact of parking lots on the environment. Built from 3 different semi-permeable surfaces, the lot is testing the viability of these surfaces to allow storm water to seep through rather than running off, reducing the need for storm water drains that get clogged and overflow. The surfaces are also being evaluated for their ability to filter pollution, with the 10 year evaluation due to conclude in 2019.
From one angle, the Nutwood parking facility seems like a normal parking lot. Built to house 2,541 cars at the California State University, it was built in 2006 as a green remodel of an outdated parking system. Three sides of the parking structure feature living wall systems employing bamboo and flowering vines, which not only look appealing, but vastly reduce the carbon footprint of the structure and provide loads of clean oxygen.
Built in Yongin, South Korea, the Herma Parking Building was designed with the intent that it wasn’t supposed to look like a traditional parking facility. Designed by JOHO architecture, the shimmering exterior was built using 600 polycarbonate panels and 900 stainless steel ones, creating a unique appearance that seems more like a modern apartment building than a parking garage.
Parc de Celestins in Lyon, France, aims to change the perception that parking structures are dull, lifeless structures that are all too often dark and dingy. The 7 story structure features a cylindrical air shaft at its core, at the bottom of which is a giant rotating mirror. As the mirror rotates, it reflects light through the structure, and creates glittering patterns all along the walls of the shaft. The parking facility relies on the light cast by the mirror, as it exists completely underground beneath the Place de Celestins.