Imagining An Alternative to the Parking Lot
Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remarks on how the parking lot's ubiquity -- an estimated 800 million spaces in the US cover an area larger than Puerto Rico -- belies its potential as the "most regularly used outdoor space" in the United States.
Noting the environmental costs of such expanses of paved surfaces, Ben-Joseph wonders if they might be better used to help mitigate those costs through solar energy collection, impervious paving, and increased plantings.
He also focuses on their potential for architectural expression and to function as public spaces. "Planned with greater intent, parking lots could actually become significant public spaces, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks or plazas. For instance, the Italian architect Renzo Piano, when redesigning the Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, eliminated the parking lot's islands and curbs and planted rows of trees in a dense grid, creating an open, level space under a soft canopy of foliage that welcomes pedestrians as naturally as it does cars."