Monday 6 September 2010

Car Park Epitaphs

Another car park, another graveyard, another investment opportunity. The construction this time is more architectural nihilism than brutalist, but it is also closed and condemned, destined to become an impersonal block of offices and flats. A few pictures and words in memorial to another dead building.

Locked up and shut down, there will be no second life for this building. The 15th arrondissement went upmarket several years ago, and families don't need such anachronistic constructions. Today it is too massive, out of scale with the clean, minimalist lines sprouting up on the other industrial wastelands in the district.

Soon there will be a creche and social housing on the site. Worthy and necessary installations, surely in a polite and environmentally-friendly form to ensure that they don't disturb the neighbourhood. If the local residents miss anything it may be a place to park their car, and possibly the distinctive lettering on the facade. Is there no longer a place in the city though for the impressive and the imposing?

Here is a building that in its prime offered shelter to 600 cars. It would have seen the perpetual movement of vehicles ascending and descending, a mountain of motion and noise. Like most major cities today, Paris is chasing away the motor car and no longer wishes to see temples to its power situated within the city boundaries. As a non-driver, this is not something that affects me, but I am a little sad to see an end to significant car park architecture.

September 17th sees the return of Parking day. Rather than a celebration of the strange world of the car park it is in fact "an annual, worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good". It is an admirable initiative, but could it extended to a larger scale? Could buildings such as this one be transformed into spaces for the public good? If so, what possible uses could be found for them? I would certainly sponsor an initiative that looked into the issue!

Grand Garage de Paris, 218 Rue de la Croix Nivert

Other Invisible Paris car-parks that may interest you:
The Grand Garage Haussmann
Le Parking Bellefond


PeterParis said...

Parkings should now be invisible, underground. Just round the corner from where I live (17th arrdt) they ar constructing one, exactly for the 600 places that the 15th arrdt will miss. Anyhow, as you say, if you live in Paris, the best is not to have a car.

Adam said...

Peter: I agree that underground spaces are the best places today for car parks, but the above ground architecture was of a form that we may never see again, and I find that a shame. I think we should keep some of these buildings, but transform them for other purposes. The Mama Shelter hotel is perhaps a good example!

PeterParis said...

Agree! :-)

Peter (the other) said...

As a boy, circa 11-12, I made pocket money sweeping up etc., and in winter opening/closing the large doors of a 1932 built garage (our most remarkable residents were the conductors Erich Leinsdorf and Arthur Fiedler). It was a large, two story building with sweeping curved drives up and down. Sometime in the early 70s the building was converted to apartments, somewhat unsuccessfully to my eye, (although in "Street View" the maturing trees have helped). A young man in 1976, I lived in an apartment building that had been recently converted from a garage, that had a large population of French, Berklee school of music students (12 Stoneholm St. Boston, MA USA)! In both cases, I can't say the conversions were successful enough to warrant.

Adam said...

Hello Peter (the other!). It's always good to read your stories here.

It's true that the two buildings you mention are a little unimaginative. Whilst researching places to visit for the Journées du Patrimoine in Paris though I did find this building that looks a lot more interesting. Apparently after a first life as a 1950s garage it was converted into offices for Le Monde newspaper. Strangely, I think that the Liberation newspaper is also headquartered in a converted car park.

Peter (the other) said...

Here in southern California where nothing is built to last any longer then the mortgage, re-purposing buildings is just inefficient. I watched with some curiosity as they knocked down a ten year old medical building to add a hospital extension a few years ago. As to cars, we are 50 years behind you guys (I remember when everything was being dug up in Europe in the 60s-70s, inconvenient then but prescient now). I was in downtown Seattle last week, and saw an inner city garage as in New York: elevators to take the cars up and down! It brought back memories.

badaude said...

I've stayed at Mamashelter. I arrived a sceptic who feared that the high design concept would outweigh the reality but became an instant convert. I loved it! What other type of architecture could accomodate parking-lot-sized windows offering such stunning views over Belleville?

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