Have you ever found yourself gazing at a parking garage and just, well, wishing you weren't? Garages often feel like one of those necessary urban evils that no amount of picturesque side-street parking or, hey, pocket parks can wish away. Still, even parking garages can be redeemed. While not new, the sculptural car garage was revived a few years ago by Herzog & de Meuron's 1111 Lincoln Road and carried to its limits in Zaha Hadid's Miami Beach garage, both of which are marked by flashy gestures. WRNS Studio's silvery design for the new carpark at the University of California San Francisco presents a slightly different take on the typology, eschewing formal exuberance for a restrained cool.
The ten-story parking garage serves the university's Mission Bay Medical Center. Though the hospital won't open till 2015, you can already take your car to the garage equivalent of a boutique hotel.
WRNS solved the central problem of parking garages—with their dark cavities revealing rows of cars like so many discolored teeth—by controlling light and carefully orchestrating sight lines. The facade's patchwork of anodyzed aluminum panels gives the whole building the aspect of a shiny metallic quilt, but within each panel the direction of the louvers changes. So there's no vantage point from which a passerby can see straight through the building. Instead, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike are treated to a shimmery play of light and shadow.
According to the Mission Bay master plan, the garage will eventually be concealed within a thicket of taller buildings. But with any luck, come 2015 the new medical center will offer sweeping views of its parking garage.
All photos: Tim Griffith