By Aaron Neal
The automobile has over the course of the last century changed how we design architecture. The impact of cars has been so drastic that they become the main driving force in our society. Huge interstates and garages dominate the urban fabric of our country. People flow into cities for their jobs early in the morning and flow out of the city later after work. This means that thousands of cars need a safe and efficient route to a location where they can store their cars for the day just to leave back on the same route back to their homes. Automobile traffic routes are so dominant in our cities that they take up most of the space in any urban project. This creates a problem when people want to build dense projects on smaller lots of land. With more people on a lot of land, more parking has to be implemented due to local zoning codes. Most designs solve this issue by including a parking garage in their project, but then these garages are the main driving force for laying out the structure and program.
In my studio project, this notion of the automobile is becoming a major driving force. We have a masterplan to design with a total square footage ranging near or above five million square feet on a site that is only 63 acres large. This square footage doesn’t even take into account the amount of parking required by the city of Baltimore – where the project is located. By calculating these requirements we came up with a required number of thirty one thousand parking spots. This comes to a staggering nine million square feet on a site that is just only three million square feet. This poses a serious problem. We have to find room for fifteen million square feet on a space on only three million. How do we find a way as a society to lower this required parking space? Ideally having other modes of transportation could help lower that amount of people coming in with vehicles. Bus routes and light rails are commonly used in cities these days that help reduce these numbers. In the near future, faster public transit my come about in the form or PRT, High Speed Rails, the Hyperloop. These new technologies would be wonderful, but there is still a question that is pertinent to our current project. How do we solve the parking issue right now currently without these new technologies and infrastructure in place. In our studio class we dropped the number of parking down to 9000 with carpooling and public transit being our justification. Even then there is still the issue of 9000 people leaving and entering the site every day. The issue now is more of how do we move people to and from and not where they are going to store their vehicles. There are limiting entry points to our site so we will have to design a system that can safely and orderly get people to where they need to store their car and allow for a mass flood in and out during the times of work. Overall this is a very complex problem that needs to be solved in the near future otherwise we are going to just worsen the problem further than it already is and maybe to the point of no return. Maybe we are already at that point in which changing the car driven societies mind about their daily commute.