Oslo Metropolitan Area hosted a discussion that was inspired by that city’s boundary pushing green ambitions, Woods Bagot’s SuperSpace analysis of car park reuse in LA, and WAN’s ‘Reclaiming the Streets’ symposium and manifesto.
Chaired by Michael Hammond, participants included Julie Sjøwall Oftedal (Oslo Metropolitan Area and A-Lab), Florian Frotscher (Woods Bagot), Angel Dapper (Grimshaw) Scott Grady (Haptic Architects) and Frank van der Sant (Apcoa).
The session was supported by tenderstream.com, the leading supplier of project leads to architects.
Sjøwall Oftedal noted Oslo’s ambitious target to cut 95% of emissions by 2030 and become car free, which creates sustainability and social considerations for urban space.
Meanwhile, Woods Bagot’s SuperSpace research into LA’s transport design considers converting above ground parking into residential-led development, densifying the city with appropriate scale without breaking the urban fabric, said Frotscher. LA is a commuter city, though trends show that significantly less parking will be needed in future.
The total footprint of ground-level car parks in LA’s metropolitan area equates to 2.1 times the footprint of Manhattan. Reusing these spaces could absorb a 33% population uplift without further densification of the existing urban sprawl.
In contrast, van der Sant said that despite widespread measures to eliminate city centre traffic globally, parking is not a dead business model. Use is increasing, while new elements including charging stations, residential and drone landing are added.
Dapper then elaborated on measures to eliminate wasted and inconveniently located spaces in transport hubs including airports, instead creating destinations that bring all connectivity together to a single entry-point serving leisure, retail and hotel uses. Super car parks are incorporated in these locations, freeing up land elsewhere for green uses. Anticipating reduced car use in future, the component nodes of these facilities would be flexible for relocation or conversion to other uses.
Do cars and therefore car parks have a future?
Frotscher argued for versatility in their design, including 4m floor-to-floor heights which, though costly, facilitate conversion to other uses. Investment in versatile buildings is compelling because it future proofs for changed use.
Investors are disinterested in the temporary and flexible given 20-year investment cycles, van der Sant countered.
The important distinction between ‘versatile’ and ‘flexible’ was then discussed.
Car parks provide the potential for new kinds of public space, said Grady, noting London’s Peckham Levels as a compelling mixed-use cultural workspace. Frotscher added that converted car parks create perfect offices, offering fluid connectivity through ramps and stacked horizontal spaces that are useful for agile working.
Moreover, converted facilities are increasingly part of the urban ecosystem. Sjøwall Oftedal referenced their use in aquaponics, combining aquaculture with hydroponics for breeding fish. She added that eliminating street parking and converting spaces for green uses can also mitigate against flood risk in cities and provide important green corridors for biodiversity.
Frotscher concluded there isn’t a bright future for increasingly expensive and energy draining individualised traffic. Furthermore, it is pragmatic to look at available above ground parking land as no demolition is needed for conversion.
Scott Grady, winner of the Rising Star category in the 2018 WAN AWARDS said taking part in the forum had “opened new doors for us at Haptic Architects”. “Taking part in a round table at MIPIM, hosted by the city of Oslo, was a great way to engage with and share ideas with thought leaders and potential clients in the industry,” said Grady.
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