Past, Present and Future of the Parking Garage

Yes, theres a parking meter and parking time stamp machines and parking attendant hats. Just about everything you can imagine about the subject of parking is to be found in an exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington.
House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage, which opened last month, looks at the history and future of the parking structure. The show includes images of garages by Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei and Santiago Calatrava. It also charts parking landmarks from the innovative DHumy ramp system of 1918 to the recent plans for the first LEED-certified green garage by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners. The possible future of parking involves smart garages, with electric recharging stations and Internet connections to update motorists on the availability and location of spots.

The dull dark parking garage of common imagination contrasts with bolder imagery. A design by the architect Harry Wolf for Revelle College at the University of California, San Diego, suggests a huge circular spaceship. And a proposal by Moskow Linn Architects calls for dispensing rental cars for Zipcar in a downtown structure inspired by Pez candy holders.

The pop culture side of the parking world is not neglected. The show, curated by Sarah Leavitt, coordinating curator of the National Building Museum, is accompanied by a program of films related to parking, titled From Comedy to Creepy: Parking Garages in American Media. The films include, of course, the Deep Throat sequences in All the Presidents Men and the Seinfeld parking episode.

Discussion groups are planned in connection with the show, which was conceived by Shannon Sanders McDonald, author of The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form, published in 2007 by the Urban Land Institute. Guided tours are also available.

House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage is at the National Building Museum in Washington and runs until July 11, 2010.
National Building Museum
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