Reinventing the parkade with a sustainable parking design in Calgary
The garage isn’t just where you park your car. Countless transformational success stories, from rock bands to famous tech companies, have come from such humble roots. This time, it’s the parking garage that’s the focus of innovation through the latest in parking design.
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), along with operating partners Calgary Parking Authority and Platform Calgary, were in preparations to build what could be central Calgary’s last new parkade in the city’s East Village. However, the neighborhood is evolving towards a future with self-driving cars, expanded public transit, and a growing cycling culture ― all of which could make the parkade redundant.
So, when CMLC asked us to plan a sustainable building to include an immediate use beyond parking, we used our ‘in-between thinking’ to create a parking design that could adapt to our changing relationship with cars and future-proof the site for many years to come. The result is a 250,000 square foot, mixed-use building, which includes an innovation centre on the first and second levels, and allows for the future conversion to residential or office use.
It’s been a privilege to work with this team of visionaries, to help them make the parkade a transformative space that will support the community of Calgary now and into the future.”
One project constraint was that the parkade had to be sited as far from the train tracks as possible, without overshadowing the park adjoining the public library across the street. We also needed to account for an LRT transit tunnel and water main that bisected the site. However, the main challenge was working out how to design a 250,000-square-foot structure to accommodate 500 cars that first served as a parkade, while allowing for an evolution into a multi-functional space.
In a collaboration of practical futurism with our design partners, architectural firm 5468796, we engaged with stakeholders at the Calgary Parking Authority to explore the concept of the parking garage and its role in how we live, work, and play. An integrated 50,000 square-foot innovation centre ― Platform ― welcoming start-ups and changemakers to the space proved how this structure could be more than just a garage. A basketball court and other ground-level amenity spaces welcome the public on 9th Avenue, attracting street life to this emerging neighborhood.
We tackled the challenge of future convertibility in several ways. Each floor needed to be designed to support a much heavier load than a typical parkade to accommodate people, furniture and their belongings. Instead of traditional parking-garage ramps that would serve no future purpose, a gently sloped slab winds all the way to the top of the structure, so that each floor can be leveled individually as uses within the structure change. This gradual ramp winds around a void that floods each floor with natural light, illuminating the innovation centre from above.
Each floor has the appropriate height of an office or apartment-building level, which is one and a half times higher than one finds in a typical parkade. This imparts a freedom upon the space — its future use is not prescribed or constrained.
Since the construction finished in 2021 and opened to the public, the 9th Avenue Parkade and Platform Innovation Centre has sparked conversations about the future of driving and parking, and land usage in urban neighborhoods. The story was featured on CNN, and serves as a powerful calling card for CMLC, Platform, the Calgary Parking Authority, and the City of Calgary — all of whom have a stake in how the story of the urban commute unfolds.
All photos are taken by James Brittain.
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