The New York Times recently carried an article by Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at MIT and author of ‘Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking’. In it, Ben-Joseph shares his vision for transforming the parking lot into a space beyond simply providing parking availability and convenience.
He believes that the parking lot needs to evolve to include a variety of other uses, mitigate its effect on the environment and give greater consideration to aesthetics and architectural context.
Environmentally, parking lots come with costs – including increased heat from the exposed asphalt pavement, as well as water runoff from the impervious surfaces. A better parking lot might be covered with solar canopies so that it could produce energy while lowering heat, or may be surfaced with a permeable material like porous asphalt and planted with trees in rows like an apple orchard, so that it could sequester carbon and clean contaminated runoff.
Parking lots are also one of the most utilised outdoor spaces – public spaces that people interact with and use on a daily basis, and one of the few places where cars and pedestrians coexist. Better parking lots would expand and embrace this role, providing a range of public activities such as farmers markets and food stalls, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks or plazas.