Future proofing for conversion to other uses
Designed by 5468796 Architecture, the elliptical Calgary Parkade is a multilevel car park, an innovation center, a play area, and a cafeteria that’s designed for tomorrow. The potential for conversion to completely different uses in the more or less distant future was built in from the outset.
Since the economic boom, the number of cars in urban centers has continued to grow, to the point that they’ve determined the shape of our cities. The pedestrian-car dichotomy is a fundamental element of urban planning, with growing numbers of schemes developed to unclog city streets.
Calgary, in Canada, is pursuing such a scheme, with the design for this new multi-story car park intended to respond to many of the city’s needs, especially for a parking facility in the city center that can free up the numerous street-level car parks. Finding the right location for the multilevel car park was crucial in achieving the project’s objectives. So too was a design that could create a presence on 9th Avenue. The result is a structure built to the same height as the surrounding buildings, which include the Calgary Municipal Building, Calgary Central Library, and Studio Bell, home of the National Music Center. The site, however, posed a design constraint in that it’s cut in two by an underground rail tunnel, making 20% of the central portion of the site unbuildable. Finally, the client required a future-proof structure, with the possibility of converting the building to other uses built into the design.
The project by 5468796 Architecture, which worked in collaboration with Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning, consists of an elliptical building with seven aboveground levels and a large internal courtyard at ground level.
The architects worked around the constraint of having an unbuildable section on the site by designing a bridge that connects the two parts of the building at the first level. Pedestrian and vehicular access are kept well separate, with cars forced to slow down at the raised sidewalk, from where they’re directed towards the internal courtyard and a suspended ramp that leads to the five parking levels on the second floor up, with spaces for 510 cars. These levels have 40-foot wide floor plates that allow natural light to penetrate the innermost spaces in case of future conversion. They have a 1–2% slope, eliminating the need for internal ramps, which would otherwise need to be removed in the future.
The first two levels are occupied by the Platform Innovation Centre, an incubator for startups and workshops, flanked by a cafeteria, a bicycle parking area, lounge areas, and a playground.
Spherical bollards, colored concrete paving designs, and a mirrored ceiling make the central courtyard a vibrant place, with a distinctive and appealing aesthetic.
The entire reinforced concrete building is wrapped in a kind of shroud – a steel structure that follows the contours of the building. These countless white pipes are set at different angles, acting as a sunscreen as well as a balustrade for pedestrians. From the outside, they give the building an elegant, floating, fluid, and dynamic appearance. While the pipes are mainly vertical, they’re angled upwards at street level, creating a shroud that seems to lift to make room for pedestrian entrance.
The parkade can be converted, partially or entirely, gradually or quickly, to various other uses. But the key to the project isn’t just its adaptability, but also that it is a parking lot for a future in which public transport will be the norm, and cars will be self-driving, automatic, and more sustainable.
Location: Calgary, Canada
Architects: 5468796 Architecture (in collaboration with Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning)
Photography by James Brittain, courtesy of 5468796 Architecture and Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning