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Architecture Wed May 21 2008

Green Parking Garage? Healthy Cigarette?

Chicago developer Al Friedman is planning to construct a 900-stall parking garage at Clark and Kinze, Crain's reports. Departing from the pattern of the typical gray, derelict structure, this garage implements design details such as backlit glazing and, ironically enough, sustainable building practices. Mr. Friedman expounds, "Usually a garage is a staid, ordinary structure. We didn't want that. We didn't want a garage that looked like a garage...At the same time we’re trying to acknowledge that the car is a central part of society. A garage is the antithesis of 'green' so we asked 'How can we make it as green as possible?' We wanted to blend aesthetics and still let people know it's a public parking garage."

friedmanpark.gif As part of its green features, the garage will utilize natural ventilation, electricity generating wind turbines, electric car plug-in stations, a bike locker room and a green roof.

This project presents a sort of mixed bag of feelings for urbanists and environmentalists. Parking garages, by their very nature, are damaging to both the urban and ecological environment. No matter what green building techniques and materials are employed, ample parking is directly responsible for downtown congestion and an over reliance on the automobile. Particulary tragic is the prime location of this site in an area so well served by public transportation. However, despite one's best wishes, parking garages are not going away and if they are to be built, one would hope they attain the quality of this proposal.(See note below) Another redeeming quality may be the appearance of retail space on the ground floor; the existence of which is invaluable to maintaining a pedestrian friendly environment. Perhaps as a positive omen for downtown life, in general, other parking garages are undergoing renovations to install retailers at their base. (i.e. the Sears Tower parking garage between Adams & Jackson and Wells & Franklin)

Despite whatever best architectural practices my be incorporated, this project is guilty what has been coined as "greenwashing". Greenwashing is a growing practice of masking detrimental projects with a glaze of sustainable practices to appease politicians and community members. A practice also known as "The oil company commercial which leads you to believe they are in the business of helping impoverished countries and growing forests."

The CTA advertises that one train takes 600 cars off the road. It looks like they'll have to add a few more to balance out River North's latest addition.


Note: Several ill informed alderman and "community groups" are continuously trying to increase the amount of off street parking in the downtown area. As recently as last year there was discussion of mandating new developments provide a minimum of 1 parking space for each residence.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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