Automated parking tower.

April 24, 2017

Garage or Destination: The Aesthetic Evolution of Parking Structures


Our car-centric society continues to dictate the need for parking. If unimaginative plans are repeatedly accepted, these structures will continue to promote undesirable illusions of monolithic intrusions upon a city or campus landscape. With this pre-conditioned mind set, garages continue to exist in the realm of utilitarian and practical, as just a facilitator of the automobile. It is just a garage, right?


Many people don’t usually consider garages as destinations, but they are. We seek them out and upon identifying their location, we determine the best route to access them — much like we do a fine restaurant or place of entertainment. However, the use of strategic or high-priced land for parking is always a delicate issue to overcome, especially when it concerns the need for a parking structure.

Answering the Need, Functionality and Aesthetic Through Innovation

The initial determination of the need is usually accomplished by popular methodologies such as sustainability and traffic analysis. This is practiced by most of the traditional-thinking transportation and parking professionals. Now, the difference is exhibited by the next steps of design, where the innovation and contextual interface. Bicycle and pedestrian users, space for retail and mixed-use occupancy, art and other applied aesthetics are all considered when developing design. All these combined elements help enhance the imaginative use of plant material for color, façade softening and screening.

Identification of this larger picture initiates a thought process of holistic visioning and connectivity. Stakeholder input clarifies objectives and strategies related to projected cost, schedules and aesthetics applied or built into the structure. Workshops, team communication sessions, cost estimators and materials and construction experts continue to manage the expectations to ensure that the design thinking relates directly to the client’s desires. Pushing and pulling during these encounters only work to create greater successes.

Creating a Destination and Economic Driver

While the final design is critical to project success, equally important are site logistics during construction to address material delivery and handling, traffic flow, safety, construction lay-down areas and other challenges.

Whether located within a busy university campus or a constricted downtown site, locating the parking structure is an opportunity to have an immense positive impact within its surrounding community. When these components are thoughtfully integrated into planning, design and construction, the structure has the potential to fully connect to the community fabric. With this, the structure has a far greater impact than simply being just a multi-level building to store vehicles.

Cities are establishing more mixed use demands so that boring concrete façades are a thing of the past. Garages can become the multifunctional, multi-dimensional, destination that you just happen to park within.

The Aesthetic Evolution of Parking Structures has Arrived

Envision a parking structure that can become an economic driver to rent for events: shops on every floor; outdoor spaces and roof top overlooks; and spaces for exercise, entertainment, leisure and other commercial uses. The structure’s design becomes an iconic feature within its context area and a strategic component of true downtown revitalization.

Experience a collection of destination parking garage examples below.

Glass parking tower.

Autostadt Automated Parking Garage Towers, Wolfsburg, Germany. Designed by Ray Hole Architects.

Parking garage at night.

1111 Lincoln Road, Miami, Florida. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

Parking garage in the evening.

Greenway Self Park, Chicago, Illinois. Designed by HOK.

Parking garage in the evening.

City of Jacksonville Parking Garage, Jacksonville, Florida. Designed by Haskell.

Technology Spotlight: The Mechanical Parking System

Systems are now able to create hassle-free parking while saving money for parking management companies. One such system, the mechanical parking system, utilizes electrical and hydraulic equipment to “stack” vehicles to save valuable space. Operators or trained patrons can operate the controls to relieve the driver of the “hunt” for space and the drudgery of navigating through multiple, potentially foreboding levels of parking. Other benefits can be realized by less excavation for below grade garages or more leasable/sellable square footage for above ground garages.

Are you interested in speaking with our experts about developing a parking garage destination? Contact design expert, Chris Flagg via email,

Haskell delivers $2± billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,200 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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