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4 Ways Parking Can Deliver the Unexpected

Far too often, we think of parking as nothing more than a necessary stop on the way from our origin to our destination – not part of the destination itself. However, parking can provide a number of unique opportunities to make an impression that goes above and beyond the expected. Since parking is often the first and last impression a person has at a destination, ensuring that impression is a positive one can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. Let’s explore some of the ways parking can surprise, delight and elevate in unexpected ways.

Image of 4 Ways Parking Can Deliver the Unexpected Signage in the Phoenix Biomedical Campus Garage uses creative accents to elevate the user experience.

1. Find Your Way

Foremost on anyone’s mind once they find a parking space is getting where they’re trying to go, making clear and accurate signage a critical piece of enhancing the user experience. In the Phoenix Biomedical Campus parking garage, signage goes above and beyond helping users simply find their way. 

Bold colors that serve as wayfinding devices are combined with miniature car cutouts to accent level signage throughout the structure. These creative accents go a long way towards making the user feel welcome.

The city of Santa Clarita took a similar approach in the Old Town Newhall parking structure. As the structure was part of an overall plan to revitalize a dynamic arts and entertainment district, signage in the structure takes on the look and feel of signage used throughout the district. 

By extending that identity into the parking structure, it becomes part of the destination rather than a disconnected piece.

Image of 4 Ways Parking Can Deliver the Unexpected Glass etchings on the elevator lobby of Stanford University Medical Center's Parking Structure #4 create a playful interaction with sound.

2. Turn It Up

While we expect visual cues from parking structures, from signage and parking guidance to art and architecture, it’s not often that parking engages users through sound. However that’s exactly what you’ll find when you visit Stanford University Medical Center. Pedestrians entering and exiting Parking Garage #4 pass through an elevator and stair tower that provides access to the subterranean structure. As they enter the glass-windowed building, they might hear something unexpected: the ping of a tennis ball. The churn of a locomotive. The song of a bird.

What do these sounds have in common? They are all connected to images etched onto the glass panels, creating a playful and wholly unexpected interaction between the building and the visitor. Given the stress that often accompanies trips to hospitals and medical centers, this encounter provides a unique opportunity to spark a smile where you might least expect it.

Image of 4 Ways Parking Can Deliver the Unexpected A treasure trove of details delights visitors to the Granada Garage in Santa Barbara.

3. Delve into the Details

Parking structures can provide an unexpected opportunity to express identity, be it an urban downtown, a mixed-use destination or a corporate campus. Not many have taken advantage of this idea more than the city of Santa Barbara. As a central downtown location, the Granada Garage is a reflection of the Mission Revival style architecture found throughout the area. 

The treasure trove of details found within the structure include scalloped parapets, metal spires, terra cotta vases and plantar scones. The balconies over the main entrance feature wrought iron, as does a wide array of custom signage, including a sign for the Bike Station that appears to be suspended from a pomegranate. Taking time to explore the facility is rewarded with finds such as the Summer Solstice Celebration murals, which can be found on a paseo behind the structure.

In addition to design details, the Granada Garage also houses a unique opportunity to showcase Santa Barbara’s commitment to sustainability. A robust bicycle facility for commuters, including bike racks, tools and work bench to make repairs, shower, restroom and lockers, encourages users to bike to work.

Image of 4 Ways Parking Can Deliver the Unexpected At UC Santa Cruz, cantilevered parking stalls blend parking into the surrounding Redwood trees, creating a spectacular view.

4. Enjoy the View

Have you ever watched a fireworks show from the top of a parking garage? Spotted a scenic vista that you might have otherwise missed? Parking structures frequently offer unique views of the surrounding area. The San Diego International Airport had just such an opportunity with the Terminal 2 Parking Plaza. Located right on the harbor, the top deck of the facility includes a viewing platform that encourages travelers to stop and live in the moment before moving on to their next destination.

At UC Santa Cruz, parking is carefully blended into the surrounding Redwoods. Careful consideration was taken in the design of the foundation to not interfere with adjacent trees, preserving the stunning landscape. A combination of open and closed rails around the façade showcase the spectacular environment for all to see. Cantilevered parking stalls make it feel like the user is parking right there in the tree canopy.

Creating moments of unexpected delight in a parking structure can range from elaborate design elements to simple and cost effective accents that can be added to new or existing facilities. The key is thinking outside of the box and looking for opportunities where we aren’t used to finding them. Big or small, they can go a long way towards forging a connection with the user and creating a positive impression.

About the Authors

Francisco Navarro has been creating parking solutions for over 20 years. He has worked on over 100 parking projects. In addition to delivering projects to satisfied clients, Francisco’s projects, such as the San Jose State University South Campus Multi-Level Parking Structure & Sports Field Facility, have received recognition from the National Parking Association and other organizations. Francisco is an active participant in the International Parking and Mobility Institute and the California Mobility & Parking Association. In addition to managing high profile projects for clients such as the University of Nevada Reno and the County of San Mateo, Francisco leads Watry Design's BIM efforts. 

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Genaro Morales, AIA, a licensed architect in 3 states, has over 30 years of experience in the industry. He has led or contributed to over 150 parking and design projects. In addition to delivering projects to satisfied clients, Genaro’s projects, such as the Vallejo Station Parking Structure and the Long Beach Airport Parking Structure, have received recognition from the International Parking & Mobility Institute and other associations. Genaro is a member of the Design Build Institute and the International Parking & Mobility Institute.

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