Ben-Joseph: Lots of trouble

Quick: Name a great parking lot. You probably cannot think of one offhand. If you did, it would certainly surprise Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of landscape architecture and urban design at MIT. A few years ago, teaching MIT's venerable site-planning class, Ben-Joseph found himself confronted with the problem of explaining to students why parking lots are so often nothing but vast fields of asphalt occupying prime urban and suburban real estate. So Ben-Joseph started asking people if they could name parking lots that even had a few good qualities to them. "It started with this quick question: 'Have you seen a great parking lot lately?' I surveyed a lot of people I know, students and colleagues, and most people can't point to one," Ben-Joseph says. Before long, he had come to one conclusion: "Planners, developers and public officials should pay more attention to the issue." With that aim in mind, Ben-Joseph has produced a new book about the subject, Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, published this month by MIT Press, in which he details the centrality of parking lots in our lives, questions their most common forms and suggests ways of improving them. "We all use parking lots, and we all kind of hate them," Ben-Joseph says. "Yet they're part of everyday life and we have to deal with that. There are cultural and psychological issues around parking lots, and a lot of anxiety about how people behave and drive in them. We need to think about these spaces as being an important part of our daily lives." (Excerpted from MIT News; for more on this story, see; image: Lee Adlaf from Birmingham, AL, USA (Power Uploaded by xnatedawgx) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)