Re-thinking Parking Decks

1111 Lincoln Road Parking Deck, Miami, Fl

When you mention parking decks to most people, an image comes to mind that isn’t always flattering. It might look like this:

Often, these parking decks have utilitarian looking exteriors with dark, confusing and unfriendly interiors. Someone once called them the Rodney Dangerfield of building types…the red-headed step child, an unfortnate necessity.

Well, it doesn’t need to be this way.  I’ve had the good fortune to work on a number of parking decks on college and university campuses, where aesthetics and utility are of utmost importance. Each one gets better, offering functionality beyond simply a place to house cars.

The scale and aesthetics of this deck, which serves the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) student union nestled in the heart of the campus, reflect the collegiate nature of the overall campus fabric.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte Student Union Deck

The North Deck at UNCC reconsiders the stairway, utilizing a grand, flowing exterior stair veiled by a delicate lattice of metalwork that directs students to campus in a dramatic way by screening the cars and the precast concrete panels.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte North Deck

The South Deck, currently in construction, is the main parking structure in UNCC’s South Village and will ultimately serve 3000 students and a central dining hall. This deck, which anchors a hub for a shuttle service that will transport students to and from campus, uses the stair as a form giver on axis with the primary pedestrian path taking students to their housing.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte South Village Deck

The narrow, tall parking deck at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) preserves space for future academic buildings, anchors a busy corner in Charlotte…and pretends to be something else by hiding its real identity! My wife refers to it as the empty shell. Nonetheless, it’s an attractive cloak that speaks to the traditional nature of the CPCC campus.

Central Piedmont Community College Deck

The Craige Deck expansion at UNC-Chapel Hill  is a vertical expansion that will primarily serve the campus and nearby hospital and medical school. Its architectural design maintains the expression of a parking structure while attempting to make it ‘feel’ more like part of the campus. Occupying a very prominent site on campus that also serves the football and basketball stadiums, this deck could be a first and last impression of Chapel Hill’s campus for many, so it is critical that the structure leaves a positive impression.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Craige Deck Expansion

The deck design incorporates room in front that can accomodate special housing for medical students or interns.
We recently completed a study for Winston Salem State University for a deck that will serve as a gateway to campus and incorporate a bookstore and office space at street level. The dancing metal panels and masonry relate to the more recent buildings on campus, and the main stair will incorporate large scale graphics furthering the University’s presence and brand.

Winston Salem State University Deck

While all of these decks represent contextual buildings that attempt to integrate within an established campus aesthetic, some decks are simply iconic. The most famous recent example is the deck at top of this post, 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami, where people are getting married!

And, of course, Zaha Hadid has joined in on the reinvention of this building type…but I have no idea how you park in it.


For other wild ideas, check out this link of a recent exhibit in Washington, D.C.