A Parking Garage Designed Like A Go-kart Track On Steroids

We’re all for pepping up parking lots–to a point.

Most architects tasked with designing a parking garage try everything this side of a Houdini act to make the cars disappear. Not so Interface Studio Architects. The Philadelphia firm has proposed building a wild, looping car park on Hong Kong’s waterfront–one that looks like a go-kart track on steroids and features “shopping, food, sports, views, and parking spaces tangled up in a kinetic rotation of animated circulation.” It’s the parking garage as a wacky funhouse.


The rationale: Hong Kong has relatively few cars–just 461,000 registered in a city of 7 million. So whereas “so many cities are forced to store a massive volume of automobiles in ways that don’t negatively impact the street, Hong Kong can afford to be different,” the architects say. They go on:

Hong Kong likes to wear its infrastructure on its sleeve. From the Old Airport, to richly layered pedestrian walkways, outdoor escalators, and floating water-borne neighborhoods – the city pulses with circulation, both horizontal and vertical. Unlike more typical new developments which continue to emulate western approaches to hiding cars, our proposal looks to capture new potentials for Hong Kong’s infrastructural personality by integrating the ritual of ‘the drive’ with mixed programs.

We’re all for pepping up depressing old parking lots. We also like the idea of weaving in other amenities: Garages often look like boxy fortresses, and enlivening them with assorted shops and people-centered activities makes intuitive sense (presuming the place has excellent ventilation).

The problem is that this structure seems downright wasteful. Look at the way the ramps spiral out every which way, leaving empty space in the core. You end up with a building that has a tremendous footprint, yet doesn’t deliver nearly as many parking spaces as it could. That’s inefficient whether you’re in a city with 400,000 cars or 4 million. Garages look like boxy fortresses for a reason: It’s the easiest way to pack in cars. Certainly, there are ways to improve upon that formula, but this isn’t one of them.

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.