A new parking garage in Nordhavn, Denmark by JAJA Architects will combine form, functionality, and fun. Draped in greenery and topped with a public playground, the aptly named Park and Play reimagines a garage as an active social space rather than simply a storage place for cars. “Conventional parking facilities occupy large areas but don’t give anything back to their surroundings,” says Jan Yoshiyuki Tanaka, one of the firm’s partners. “Our project is a humble attempt to rethink future parking garages—and highlight their potential.”
The garage is being built as part of the first phase of Nordhavn’s almost 500-acre master plan to be developed over the next 40 to 50 years. Dense, low, and packed with livable suburban features such as pocket parks, kayak commutes to work, and bicycle pathways, this planned suburb of Copenhagen is intended to be an inventive exercise in adaptive reuse of a former shipping dock area. In keeping with the innovative spirit, “in the master plan, there wasn’t much space allocated for a traditional playground. Instead, it was decided to use the rooftop of the parking garage, which will be the largest public space above the Copenhagen skyline,” says Tanaka.
Set in a neighborhood of historic red brick buildings, the concrete garage will be tinted red to glow as warmly as its neighbors. Verdant tendrils of green will clamber their way up all four façades of the garage, planted in long boxes placed at staggered intervals to give the building additional depth. Two stairwells will start at street level, wending their way up the sides of the building and ending at the roof. Meant to mimic the Pompidou Center and to similarly “invite passers-by on a trip to the rooftop,” explains Tanaka, people can admire the view of red-tiled rooftops or gaze out over the city as they climb, catching their breath at well-placed landings and benches. A graphic frieze alongside the stairwells tells the story of the past, present, and future of the area, for additional visual interest.
Yet the real star in this project is undoubtedly the roof. Visitors who make the climb to the top will be rewarded with a well-equipped playground, where children will push toy boats around a small pond, workers can sit on gently swaying benches during their lunch breaks or play a game in the ball cages, and children and adults alike might swing from the bars of a climbing gym. There’s even talk of a circular trampoline being set directly over the round parking ramp; as Tanaka says, “Imagine jumping on a trampoline 78 feet above ground and having a view down through the parking lot!”
Though still rare and far between, a few other garages are also becoming multi-purpose spaces. Perhaps most famously, Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road building in Miami Beach, FL, has become an architectural celebrity, used for parties, weddings, and splashy events with its open plan and sculptural form. London-based architecture firm Brisac Gonzalez is planning a vibrantly-painted garage for Bordeaux, France, with street-level retail and rooftop apartments and gardens.
All of these projects are a step forward in parking garage design. “We have a fundamental belief that architecture should become an integrated part of its surroundings,” says Tanaka, whose project sets a perfect example. “If possible, car parks should be interesting for people, and not just when they’re driving their cars.” With this project as a model, suburban parking garages could evolve away from cold concrete boxes—and truly become dynamic spaces where people live, work, and play.