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Parking and Architecture have a very strange relationship.

Architecture in its essence is formulaic. Beyond esthetics, a building has to perform a certain way and therefore it is restricted by these functional requirements. Anyone that has studied Modernist Architecture is familiar with Louis Sullivan’s iconic phrase “form follows function”. One of these functions is parking, and it has the ability to dictate the feasibility of a project as well as dominating its physical form.

Parking has very precise parameters that need to be followed in order to create an efficient and operational parking layout. For example, you have lane widths, turning radii, parking space dimension, height requirements, ramp slopes and code requirements. More importantly all these parking requirements need to be coordinated with the rest of the building to accommodate vertical circulation, structure, mechanical systems, and esthetics. Unfortunately, this is where the parking’s dominance is exerted over the design of a building. The column grid has to be organized around the parking spaces which ultimately establishes the framework for the rest of the building. The location of stairs and elevators can’t interfere with the vehicular flow, so the overall circulation of the building is dictated by the garage.

Many zoning codes, like the Miami21, establish minimum parking requirements for new development. Generally speaking, these requirements can be simplified to 1.5 Parking Spaces per Dwelling Unit and 3 Parking Spaces per 1,000 SF or Retail/Office Space. Consequently, the feasibility or overall size of a project will be determined by how many parking spaces can be incorporate into the design.

The most basic purpose of architecture is as shelter, yet it often feels like we primarily build shelters for cars and humans secondary. The same way we have the power to shape our buildings, buildings shape us and way we live our lives. Architecture and the way we design our cities is a direct translation of our priorities as humans and societies. There is no doubt of the importance of cars in our daily lives nevertheless it’s shocking to see how much they influence our built environment.

What will be even more captivating is how future technologies will alter our priorities and revolutionize the way we shape our buildings.