the most salient landscape feature of Los Angeles

has to be the parking lot.

It’s estimated that there are three nonresidential parking spaces for every car in the United States. That adds up to almost 800 million parking spaces, covering about 4,360 square miles, an area larger than Puerto Rico. In some cities, like Orlando and Los Angeles, parking lots are estimated to cover at least one-third of the land area, making them one of the most salient landscape features of the built world.”

Italian architect Renzo Piano, when redesigning the Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, eliminated the parking lot’s islands and curbs and planted rows of trees in a dense grid, creating an open, level space under a soft canopy of foliage that welcomes pedestrians as naturally as it does cars.”


Developers talk about the importance of ‘first impressions’ to the overall atmosphere conveyed to the user. Yet parking lots are rarely designed with this function in mind. When they are, the effect is stunning. For instance, the parking lot at the Dia art museum in Beacon, N.Y., created by the artist Robert Irwin and the architecture firm OpenOffice, was planned as an integral element of the visitor’s arrival experience, with an aesthetically deft progression from the entry road to the parking lot to an allee that leads to the museum’s lobby.”

Image found here.


From The New York Times, 3/25/12, “When a Parking Lot Is So Much More,” by Eran Ben-Joseph, Professor of Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of “Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking.”

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4 Responses to the most salient landscape feature of Los Angeles

  1. I love Irwin’s Central Garden at the Getty…though it’s not a parking lot, thank God.

  2. Ks says:

    Gotta love that Robert Irwin. Did you notice there were a couple booths at the garden show featuring permeable parking lots?( they have one at the Bloedel Preserve) ..if I had an open checkbook I would convert my driveway tomorrow. The statistics you cite are chilling to say the least.

  3. Denise says:

    Jane, I haven’t visited the Getty in a couple years. I’ve heard rumors the garden is getting “simplified” and need to check that out.
    Kathy, same here, would love to convert the driveway. I get laughed at when I bring it up, tho. What a project, oy!

  4. shirley says:

    Parking lots have been a bit of an obsession of mine for a while now. The main thing I obsess about is the lighting that is wasted on acres of parking lots at night. If you think about all those lots seen from an airplane view and start adding up the kilowatts it’s a bit mind boggling. I sometimes dream about the savings if all those lights were turned off, or at least put on motion sensors. I am happy to say that I am seeing more solar panel installations going in lots in the Bay Area. This seems like a no brainer to me, not only is solar power being harvested, but cars are being shaded. I drove by the Bayer campus in Berkeley the other day and saw that SolarCity is covering their parking lot with panels. Doesn’t help with the aesthetics of the situation though.

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