ReThinking a Lot

Embracing the parking lot, past and future, and celebrating all its possible uses, from tailgate picnic spot to wind turbine site.

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There are an estimated 600,000,000 passenger cars in the world, and all of them need parking. Because of that earth’s supply of parking spaces is steadily increasing. In some cities, parking lots cover more than one-third of the land area. Stadium and mall parking stretches over acres of asphalt. It’s official: We have paved paradise and put up a parking lot. In ReThinking a Lot, Eran Ben-Joseph offers an evolutionary transformation. 

The design of parking lots, Ben-Joseph points out, has not been rethought since the 1950s. Most of us regard the parking lot as a necessary evil, needed to accommodate our personal transportation preference for driving around in cars (and then having to put them somewhere). But, asks Ben-Joseph, could parking lots be aesthetically pleasing? Environmentally and architecturally responsible? Used for something other than car storage?

Ben-Joseph provides a generously illustrated history of parking lots and shows us some of the many and varied nonparking purposes they already serve--among them, tailgate picnics, cemeteries, RV campgrounds, and productions staged by “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.” He shows us parking lots lushly planted with trees and flowers and beautifully integrated with the rest of the built environment. With purposeful design, he argues, parking lots could be significant public places, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks, or plazas. For all the acreage they cover, parking lots have received scant attention. It’s time to rethink the lot.