1989 - Multi-storey Car Park
'Motorists want to enter the building easily, circulate sensibly, see well ahead and to each side, park without the risk of damage to their car, feel safe themselves. Each should be a matter of knowledgeable design.' This is the view of the Hill Cannon Partnership of Harrogate, which has been highly praised for its designs for multi-storey car parks that succeed both architecturally and in practical terms. They specify the elimination of obstructions between parking stalls; maximum possible ceiling If height; flat decks with good all-round vision and generous side openings for natural light and ventilation. What problems are created by badly designed car parks?
There are now over 20 million cars in Britain (a country of 56 million people) and streets that were laid down in the days of the horse and cart cannot cope with the pressure from drivers wanting to gain access or to park. Even by 1960 it was obvious that unrestricted street parking was creating major traffic problems and so 'off-street' parking was encouraged. In urban areas, where land was at a premium, this entailed building upwards. A few multi-storey car parks were built before the Second World War - one of the first was adjacent to the Olympia Exhibition Centre in West London - but the booming post-war economy saw a vast increase in their numbers; there are now 3500 of them in Britain. With little previous experience on which to draw in designing this new type of building, architects borrowed construction techniques and components from existing structures without properly evaluating those features that would enable a car park to function effectively. As a result, open sides and the lack of a proper roof have caused premature corrosion and expensive repair bills. Many car parks suffer from poor planning unnecessarily complicated circulation layouts, 'blind spots' from which oncoming cars suddenly emerge, bad lighting, intrusive columns that make parking awkward, a faintly sinister atmosphere. The need to park as many cars as possible used to be the major factor but today, with city-centre shopping in competition with big out-of-town malls that have their own huge parking lots, user-friendliness is paramount. In an effort to win custom, modern multi-storey designs try to replicate the simplicity of open-air surface car parks. There are few obstructions and the environment is light and airy. Because of the vast increase in car crime and attacks on people and property, safety is now a significant design factor and many car parks incorporate closed-circuit television, security patrols and vastly improved lighting.