Reviving upside-down architecture : using a historically transitional form of parking to reduce the impact of cars in mixed-use commercial areas
Author(s)Groll, Stephanie (Stephanie Olinda)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Sam Bass Warner.
MetadataShow full item record
In the quest to reduce American automobile usage, critics have pointed to abundant and free parking as the root of a self-reinforcing pattern of scattered development that has led to a narcotic-like automobile dependency. Progressive planners maintain that the presence of parking is detrimental to creating efficient, compact communities. But history shows that's not necessarily so. In the 1940s, Sears, Roebuck located some of its stores on streetcar lines and also provided parking on the roof, making the store accessible to both pedestrians and drivers. At the time, rooftop parking signaled a transition from density to sprawl, and from a transit-based transportation system to the auto. This thesis investigates whether this building typology can be used in reverse-to usher in another transition, this time revitalizing suburban settings toward compact development patterns that can support walkability and transit. Three contemporary urban examples, in Los Angeles, Cambridge, and Boston, illustrate the suburban center redevelopment potential of "upside-down" buildings, the top-heavy stacked construction that puts parking above retail. Initial findings suggest, first, that strategically designed parking can encourage people to park once and walk to multiple destinations.(cont.) This newly generated foot traffic contributes to a street vibrancy that is often lacking in car-de-pendent communities. Second, rooftop parking's strongest trait is also its weakest. Parking that is hidden above ground level gives pedestrians a primacy they lack in traditionally suburban streetscapes. But it can create a perception that there is a parking shortage, and can hinder the adoption of the transitional form to accommodate both cars and pedestrians. Third, parking above retail captures rising land values in a way that surface parking does not. The typology physically accommodates the added retail space that only becomes possible with vertical parking. In addition to making the streetscape more urbane, it pushes the real-estate value even higher. Unconventional urban design and land use can prepare the built environment for a time when there will be many viable transportation options. At the same time, it can aid planners and "Complete Streets" advocates who want to break the chicken-and-egg cycle of automobile dependence.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2006.Includes bibliographical references (p. 69-71).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.