From Parking Lot to Affordable Housing: A Creative Solution to the Housing Crisis

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Most parking lots are not known for their architectural beauty. They are often viewed as bleak concrete boxes that consume a significant amount of space in cities to create a permanent place for cars. However, two architecture firms in Calgary, Alberta, have created a unique solution in the form of a convertible parking lot.

The 9th Avenue Parkade can currently accommodate 510 cars but can be easily transformed into a 600-person office or a 50-unit residential building in 20 to 30 years.

The 9th Avenue Parkade in Calgary, Alberta. A convertible parking lot.
Source: ArchDaily

The building was commissioned by the City of Calgary and the Calgary Parking Authority and designed by 5468796 and Kasian. It has already been shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival awards. Although it was only opened last year, the first two floors have already been converted into an innovation center that can accommodate up to 1,000 people, while the top floor has become a popular venue for wedding photoshoots.

The building’s hollow, pill-shaped footprint is the key to its adaptability. Traditional multi-story parking lots require drivers to spiral up a ramp to find a parking spot, often with steep 5-degree ramps. This design is not suitable for other purposes, as it is expensive to build and requires a lot of concrete.

Instead, the architects created a long, oval building that spans 500 feet from end to end, with a much flatter gradient of 1-2% from one floor to another. According to Sasa Radulovic, founding partner of 5468796, such gradients are common in older office buildings. The current design allows drivers to enter the building through a centre opening and drive up a ramp that bypasses the first two floors to connect directly to the third floor. Cars then gradually drive up the oval spiral to the upper floors.

Whether the building will ever be converted into something other than a parking lot remains to be seen, but if and when it happens, it could take about a year to convert the entire building, or it could happen gradually. For example, levels six and seven could be transformed into housing, while cars could still access floors three to five through the removable ramp. Regardless of its future use, the 9th Avenue Parkade serves as an excellent example of hybrid architecture that looks to the future while remaining cool and stylish in the present.

Done By: Rejina Khar, Zarif Ong & Elly Ken
Source: Fast Company & ArchDaily