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What’s the future of garages?

The New York Times isn’t alone in reporting on a “silent” revolution of reduced automobile driving. NYT writer John Schwarts reports, in Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving, that in previous decades Americans drove more every year, until some point in the middle of the last decade, when they started to drive less.

Recently Italians announced the sales of bicycles outpaced sales of cars in Italy since 2011, for the first time in 48 years. The car is being replaced as the symbol of ‘youthful freedom” by newer technology, reports Digital Trends. There are indications in some cities that although bike counts are up, bike parking is not keeping pace. There’s some speculation that small, smarter, electric cars can serve as batteries across the urban grid.

Meanwhile bike-share and car-share services are becoming more prevalent according to research by Shareable. If cars are getting smaller and being replaced, what’s the future of the garage? This background sets the stage for some interesting design briefs or design research essays.

Here are some initial thoughts…

Small Garage Structures
Solar garage designed by students at Green Mountain College VT for the college’s fossil-free farm. “The garage features and integrative design to optimize performance of electric vehicles in cold weather.” It incorporates a greenhouse area on the south side.

public parking lots and garages: destined to be re-sized and reshaped?


Folding bikes versus cars

Bike parking takes up less space and can typically be much closer to the entry points at your destination, points out Utility Cycling. Should more car onstreet car parking be given over to bikes?

American cities are experimenting with bike parking garages.

mcdonalds cycle center in chicago--storage for 300 bikes, a full service bike shop, shower facilities, and a cafe via
Mcdonalds Cycle Center in chicago–storage for 300 bikes, a full service bike shop, shower facilities, and a cafe via

But will American cities ultimately be looking toward a Dutch model:

a view from the top of the Dutch bicycle parking garage via panoramio Kfir Shimoni


dutch bicycle parking garage via

Elastic Buildings that contain parking

The term “sustainable parking garage” may be an oxymoron, but given that a lot of parking garages already exist, what are some options for them? Can we turn them into “elastic spaces” where a wider range of uses are accomodated around the clock. The 1111 Lincoln Road is premium parking garage might be an example:1111
Xavier de Jaureguiberry

Urban Farming

If we don’t need as much space for cars, do we need more space for urban farming?

Van der Hoeven Horticultural Projects greenhouse on a parking garage in Vancouver, Canada

UpGarden was the first rooftop community (P-patch) garden in the country when it opened. It’s located on a parking garage next to the Seattle Center. It’s not as easy as it looks to make this adaptation work.

Ultimately, we’ll see a shift in land use and infrastructre for urban transport. We have some big design questions to answer regarding how it will work.

3 Responses to What’s the future of garages?

  1. I don’t know if we can exactly use Italy as a reliable source for this. Having been there and to a few cities, they’re cramped and you’d be better off with a bike so it only makes sense that bikes are more popular. Same thing for Chicago. Cars are nice for when you can’t or don’t want to be active but otherwise a bike would be much better overall I feel. Like you say at the end though, urban transport and land use will be interesting to watch! Thanks for the read, it was very interesting!

  2. roger bateman says:

    What’s the future of garages? – they have always been to valuable to stand cars in….see Burt Munro etc – hopefully their future is as a place for people to repair and fix things in – back to the future!

  3. Gas is so expensive these days that it makes it not worth it to drive. The parking bike garages are a wonderful idea that more cities should have. Bikes are stolen all the time and hopefully this should help with them not getting stolen. Thanks for the read!

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