It is not often that you see some architectural thought go into the mundane-er side of life: parking a vehicle somewhere as you go about your daily tasks. But there is no real reason for the ubiquitous car park to be as universally dull, grey, and smelly as it normally is.
The architectural firm of Elliott + Associates has set out to change that, by injecting a little design fun into this car park for Chesapeake Energy, which prides itself on being a fairly responsible environmental steward – as far as a natural gas drilling company goes – that is. So the architectural brief was: make parking fun again – and show that Chesapeake Energy is hip and cool and environmentally aware.
Certainly the car park is evidence of sensitivity to the environment and resource depletion. A parsimonious use of materials leads to the choice of perforated steel as the enclosure's cladding.
This trendy new material has not been in use long enough to know what might be the long term effect of dirt and dust particles captured in all the little spaces on what might become a grimy and depressing surface.
But for now, it brings in lots of lovely light and the ever-changing colors of the sunsets.
Where the fun comes in, though, is in some graphic use of color throughout as a mnemonic device. The use of different colors in different sections help in locating the car parked by you while on autopilot in a semi-sleeping state.
“We have all been lost in an unfamiliar parking structure with a rental car that you cannot remember. Visual orientation and memorable visual queues are critical to navigation within parking structures” say the architects.
So each floor has its own color coding, because even while in that fugue state, we can at least vaguely remember the colors where we parked. That's the theory, anyway.
Finally, their carpark includes cheery messages that welcome visitors to the corporate headquarters and bid them a happy day, while keeping the unsightly cars from sight from the outside.
“We incorporated a 48” tall concrete bumper wall at the outer edge of each level to block the view of the vehicle from outside. Our belief is that we could change the preconceived image of a parking structure into a handsome, artistic architecture that becomes an asset and a recruiting tool for new employees”.
What they have achieved here has changed parking structures for good. I don't think I'll ever see a parking building the same way. This becomes an almost iconic structure. Parking as art.