California Avenue Parking Garage

Project Description

The best daily activities balance the practical with the ephemeral, the ordinary with the poetic.

The best buildings do this too.

The data reveals that Palo Alto has a new city parking garage supporting a community-scale commercial neighborhood; that this six-story concrete structure holds 636 cars; and, that visitors can drive two stories below earth or four stories above, following a ribbon of park-on roadway spiraling from compressed artificial light to big-sky rooftop glare. We learn this garage aims for environmental responsibility, generating electricity from PVs, filtering stormwater in a system of raingardens and under-pavement water storage.

But this data merely grazes the richer lived experience.

As you dock your vehicle, you hesitate, hands resting gently on steering wheel. A few moments before your scheduled arrival, you pause to trace the line of sunlight skipping along your dashboard. The Silver Linden beyond creates a moiré, your destination visible in fragments as if through Venetian blinds. Before making your way, you linger with diffuse attention. Specular reflections of city pixilate in your view, the distant rhythm of water drops a faint echo from the morning’s cloud burst. The walk downstairs elongates in a slow cascade, prolonging this moment. You’re almost there.

Design Challenge

COMMUNITY: This project is designed to give back to the community in ways beyond its rigidly defined program of automobile parking. This includes a ribbon of flowering plants along the sidewalk, benches for visitors and pedestrians, and a ceremonial stair that offers views of the city for anyone, regardless of whether or not you're parking your car here. The design emerged out of a multi-year, community outreach, engagement, and design review process. WELLNESS: Visitors who deposit their car in this large parking structure find this functional moment surprises them when it matures into an illuminated transition, a thoughtful space offering moments to linger and reflect. This garage supports personal wellness by emphasizing and facilitating the poetic aspects of an everyday activity.

Physical Context

The site design utilizes native plants and an elaborate system of rain gardens that filter the water. The users senses interact with the elements of their surroundings and help them become more connected to the site.