WHEN YOU’RE IN a parking structure, trying to squeeze into a spot between a misaligned Escalade and a rust-eaten Escort, it’s hard to appreciate the level of consideration that goes into these seemingly crude edifices. But parking decks are veritable Vulcan 3-D chess matches rendered in concrete. Building codes and traffic-engineering norms govern every detail—from ramp slopes to how the spaces are arranged— and are frequently in conflict with budgets and the desire to maximize vehicle capacity, traffic flow, safety, and aesthetics. Here’s what designers face:
RULES There are reasons you don’t see many highly stylized parking structures around. Local zoning laws, building codes, and traffic engineering guidelines all inform and restrict the designer’s imagination.
SHAPES Helixes are in most garages’ DNA, as the shape readily allows for rotational circulation, taking the form of sloped parking areas [Fig. 1] or stacked bays linked by ramps [Fig. 2]. The majority of helixes are either single- or double-threaded and can be run end to end (i.e., adjacent spirals sharing turnarounds, as shown in figure 1) as space allows. The fewer helixes a garage has—be it the number of threads or the adjacency of one helix to another—the better, as complex layouts can make it difficult for people to find their cars.
SIZE Some of a parking garage&rs