John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
“Bold Booths” inject art into the city and try to make the job of parking attendant a little brighter.
You have to feel for parking attendants, stuck in that cramped box, often without decent A/C, dealing with impatient motorists all dang day. It makes you wonder: Would their lives be improved if instead of a booth they worked inside a green, airy, biomorphic entity known as “The Slug”?
Actually, that would be an extremely weird thing to wonder. Yet Columbus, Ohio, has it on the brain with an ongoing project known as “Bold Booths.” Using grant money from Ohio State University, professors and architects are designing permanent booths for parking attendants that, they say, “produce transformative urban experiences.” The first went up this summer outside a Westin hotel, and at least three more are planned for 2015.
The inaugural “Bold Booth,” pictured above and below, is called “Coney Island” and riffs on the modernistic (for its late-1800s debut) architecture of the nearby Great Southern Theater. While renderings from Blostein/Overly Architects make it seem like a cute robot, the reality is a little more staid. Still, it looks pleasant enough for both employees and fans of oddball architecture. And that’s the whole point, Ohio State scholars Beth Blostein and Malcolm Cochran explain to The Lantern:
“The intention of the project is to find high levels of design and thought in what are sometimes overlooked, mundane places in the city,” Blostein said in an email. “The lowly surface parking lot is such a place for investigation.”
Compared to traditional valet booths, each bold booth provides a better working environment for parking attendants.
“What we found out is that some of these booths are so old that they don’t have adequate heating and air-conditioning, so they are in terrible working condition,” Cochran said. “It’s really important that we pay attention to the quality of the experience with the person who works there.”
What other booths might soon sprout in Columbus? “The Slug,” designed by Blostein/Overly Architects, is not scheduled to be built—a shame considering children could climb on it and pretend they’re riding a giant, alien gastropod.
The “Non-Booth” is a ridiculously tall structure that makes you think the attendant will descend, Christlike, from a great height to take your money.
The “Parklot” is meant to evoke long grasses growing from the prairie, and turns the actual attendant into an interactive feature. Writes DesignGroup:
Within this artificial landscape sit a variety of amenities: the attendant booth, a bicycle service station, respite seating, and a game board. A self-pay station adjacent to the booth will be protected from the elements. All seating is designed to be comfortable only for short-term use, but the engagement opportunities are many: Play a game of chess with the booth attendant; step out of the rain during a downpour; park your children or pet out of the dangers of the traffic lane while you pay; use it as an iconic rallying point.
The “MicroTower” turns an old shipping container on its head to create a parking booth and also urban amenity—a bicycle-storage space, say, or an outdoor movie projector. The similarity to an office building is intentional. “This proposal imagines the parking booth as a new tower on the city’s skyline, realized at a scale both tall and small, its proportions and monolithic nature mimicking the office towers that surround it,” writes Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design. “Nevertheless, at forty feet in height, it assumes the role of both urban landmark and signage for the business of urban parking accommodations.”
(Note one design, “Faired” by BAWorkshop, has been left out of this story due to lack of artwork.)