Main photo by Rensenbrink
For the longest time in human history, movement and transportation were linear events, based on the technical limitations of our feet, the design and possible layouts of our paths and roads which were placed on flat planes. Only natural formations like mountains or rivers allowed for escapes from the two dimensions.
Photo by Marc Crumpler
With the exception of primordial bridges, all of human trajectories criss-crossed each other on the same plane, allowing for human interactions at its intersections. Frequented intersections developed into market places, they became economic and political spaces in the form of public forums. In their quest for prosperity, people settled around these places and formed villages and later cities.
As long as the intensity of traffic was low, these intersections did not mean any significant interruptions in the flow of movement, hence did not cause any efficiency deficits. It took a while until a certain threshold of urbanization was reached and the flat plane was found to be insufficient.
It took a while until a certain threshold of urbanization was reached and the flat plane was found to be insufficient
In the late 19th century, the situation in western societies started to change with the advent of the modern railway, later the motorized traffic and the intervention of air travel. New infrastructure was built, both under and over the former singular reference plane, allowing to stratify and disentangle the increasing load of mass movement.
The newly available infrastructure did not only satisfy, it also created its own demand. Now it was easy to get around and get further in less time. Mass production made cars affordable, they quickly became ubiquitous and since then, they shaped the industrialized environment in the most dramatic way.
PARKING GARAGES - POOR HUMAN DESIGN?
The parking garage is a building typology that is derived directly from that development.
Its evolution is a story of increasing complexities: first came the flat parking lot, then the parking deck and finally the multi-story parking garage. The layering and partitioning was hardly ever more than a mere multiplication of the existing ground, a result of the spatial constraints of the flat plane, driven by the dimensions of turning circles and height requirements of vehicles.
While this concept has proven successful from a mere functional standpoint, parking garages are infamously poor in terms of human design. Most of them are nothing more than shady, dirty and raw pieces of infrastructure- a fact that has turned them into cliché locations for horror movies and real crime.
Most parking garages are nothing more than shady, dirty and raw pieces of infrastructure
1111 Lincoln Road – photo by John Zacherle
Herzog de Meuron architects challenged these standards with their design for a parking garage in central Miami by posing a central question: How should a parking garage work and how should it look like in a postindustrial setting? It seems as if they have came up with a set of valid rules.
Should we use the common raw materials like concrete and asphalt in order to create a stripped-bare structure of slabs and columns? Yes, sure. But allow light to enter the structure, by increasing the ceiling heights of certain floors dramatically!
Bare slabs and columns – photo by Matt Gilb
Break the regularity by varying the floor heights! This will create an almost classical composition of figure (we find a plinth and a „head“ as motives, for example), a late temple for the automobile and the associated industry in transformation.
Interestingly, despite providing space for cars primarily, 1111 Lincoln road points already at a post-automobile future, just like unused factories and harbor docks that have transformed into hubs for the creative industry already a while ago. This post Fordist society (think of new ways of movement, a new definition of roads and squares) is characterized by broken linearity of flight lines.
The architects cleverly break the cars smooth trajectories by allowing (or, in fact, even attracting) people to flock into the structure and mingle between the cars, making them intersect and treating them as equals. This makes 1111 Lincoln Road a real game changer.
Making people and cars intersect and treating them as equals makes 1111 Lincoln Road a real game changer
CONTINUATION OF THE URBAN GROUND
By widening the idea of functionality, by creating attractions within the ramped complex and turning the whole building into an interesting destination beyond the function of parking, Herzog de Meurons parking garage rather serves as a continuation of the urban ground, one that folds, gets perforated and intersected while expanding in the third dimension.
1111 Lincoln Road interior – photo by ForgeMind Archimedia
In fact, 1111 Lincoln Road is driven by such a strong dedication to landscaping methods, that once one has entered the building, it looses its classical qualities as seen from the outside, while the boundaries of terrain and building, figure and ground (or to put it in other words: the building and the city) disappear.
People gather in the open structure for dinners like on an Italian piazza (just elevated, but still with the panorama of the city as their attractive background), they climb the building on open ramps and stairs like a hill while enjoying the transformative spatial qualities of the building and the vistas on the surrounding.
More than parking- photo by Trevor Patt
This complex of intertwined functions is not only feasible from a capitalistic standpoint. It surely creates extra revenue from being a destination for events and parties. By including the traditional function of a public square into the open structure, by allowing trajectories to intersect once again, it also receives a political dimension (as mentioned in the beginning, think of squares as locations for political assembly or even turmoil).
Instead of repulsing people, like most of the other parking garages, it attracts and allows people to gather. Indeed, form and function go well together at 1111 Lincoln Road. What’s even more inventive, is the specific form of the public square- it adds verticality and therefor creates a whole new typology: a vertical urban complex.
Why is that relevant?
NEW ERA IN THE PERCEPTION OF MOVEMENT AND SPACE
With a fast technological revolution at play, we are standing at the beginning of a new era in the perception of movement and space. The German filmmaker, artist and author Hito Steyerl describes the shift in the visual paradigm from the centuries long manifestation of the linear perspective to a state, that she describes as a constant free fall. In this condition, we experience the loss of any stable ground which causes „the horizon to quiver in a maze of collapsing lines“ (Steyerl, Hito: The wretched of the screen, p.13).
While the linear perspective was based on the convention of certain constructive elements, like the horizon, the flight lines and the vanishing points that clearly referenced to a single and stable viewpoint, in Free Fall, everything and everybody becomes relational, all stability is gone.
Likewise, the historic model of planar squares with its motives of centrality, axiality and frontality will no longer be sufficient.
In Free Fall, everything and everybody becomes relational, all stability is gone
1111 Lincoln Road, unconsciously or not, seems to be aware of this dramatic change in our visual culture. The vertical urban complex delivers one possible answer to the question of how contemporaries should gather in an omni-relational space.
By using both classical and contemporary design methods (landscaping), Herzog de Meuron created a masterpiece that points both backwards and forward and is therefore an ideal reflection of our time.
Christian Schwarzwimmer is an Austrian architect and designer. In his posts, he is discussing the complexities of our built environment and highlighting whether architects and designers are finding the right solutions to our urging problems.