Approximately fifty percent of downtown Buffalo has been relegated to the unproductive task of parking cars either in surface lots or ramps. But does structured parking have to be anti-urban and bland? Not Santa Monica’s new $29 million, eight-level, 900 space Civic Center ramp, the nation’s first sustainable solar-powered parking structure. The ramp is drawing praise from architects and environmentalists alike. Environmentalists! One even calling the ramp a “stunner.” Read on.
A Civic Gateway: Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure By ArchNewsNow. Full story here.
A new civic parking garage, designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners (MRY), is now an integral part of the quadrant of civic buildings that visually unites the tableau of diverse buildings. Not least among the challenges was to “create architecture out of a utilitarian, common building type – one that is not generally associated with high design standards,” says MRY Principal-in-Charge James Mary O’Connor, AIA. “The structure offers a visually memorable arrival point and gateway to the Civic Center.” The project also had to exemplify the city's commitment to sustainable design – this will be one of the first parking structures in the U.S. to achieve LEED Certification.
The design brings a fresh perspective to a standard service amenity – the 298,786-square-foot structure includes 900 parking spaces on six levels above grade and two below grade – and takes it to a higher level that actually strengthens the urban fabric with street-level retail and café, spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the city, a garden, and a sense of personal safety.
According to ArchNewsNow, the building works efficiently at four different levels:
An Urban Solution
Small retail spaces at the pedestrian level expand the building's civic edge, creating a destination as well as a gateway. A lively café on the main plaza terrace will animate the pedestrian flow into and out of the heart of the Civic Center. A Zen garden highlights both the inside and the outside of the building, making it more hospitable to the community than an ordinary public garage.
A Sustainable Structure
Photovoltaic panels on the roof and laminated to three façades provide much of the building's energy needs. The array of angled photovoltaic cells accentuates the skyline and creates a memorable profile. Multicolored glass panels allow daylight into the structure, decreasing the amount of artificial light that is generally needed for this type of building, and adding a glow to the interior by day and a luminous exterior by night. The structure becomes a sensor and vessel of light, colors, and patterns, ranging from transparent to translucent.
Other sustainable features include: a storm drain water treatment system; recycled construction materials and waste; low volatile organic compound paints and coatings; low-e glazing for heating and cooling efficiency; and energy efficient mechanical systems.
Increased Safety and Security
The design incorporates several features that provide comfort, safety, and security for users. Access and exits have been consolidated at two corners of the building which serve as a control point to efficiently channel both pedestrian and vehicular traffic towards destination points. The reflective surface of the façade can be illuminated after sunset to glow as a shimmering curtain, providing defensible space through a pleasing ambient light.
A Unique Presence: Material Palette
The design does not disguise the utilitarian nature of the building, but instead seeks to celebrate this aspect as part of the design aesthetic. Automobiles, from their colors, types, and movement, are integrated as elements in the overall design strategy. The design solution uses colored laminated glass channels, photovoltaic panels, ribbed pre-cast concrete panels, and steel mesh to render a unique civic presence.
“I went by one night and saw tourists taking pictures of each other in front of the façade,” O’Connor says, “I thought, well, we’ve done what we set out to do.”
Lloyd Alter on treehugger.com is a fan:
Back in March I was dismissive of the Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Garage, a "six-story, 882-space structure at the Civic Center features photovoltaic roof panels, a storm drain water treatment system, recycled construction materials and energy efficient mechanical systems." Not being fond of above grade parking structures in prime locations, I suggested that it was a ludicrous project: " And they are going for LEED certification, which should be a challenge for an above grade parking garage, even if it was made from site-grown bamboo and ventilated by flapping butterfly wings."
I was seriously wrong, it is a stunner. It really is a silk purse out of a sow's ear of a program. If one is going to build an above grade parking garage with ocean views, it might as well be green and gorgeous.
Accommodating cars is necessary in a auto-centric city such as Buffalo. With new ramps planned in the CanalSide and Medical Campus areas, City leaders ought to look out west for design inspiration.
Pictures by John Edward Linden from ArchNewsNow.