Dull, grey and unexciting. Car parks generally have a bad reputation and don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to inspiring design. However, there are some parking garages around the world breaking this mould and breaking barriers with incredible architecture and features. Come along for the ride as we show you some of the coolest car parks in the world.
25 Coolest Car Parks in the World
1. Sinking Ship – Seattle, Washington
In Pioneer Square in Seattle, you’ll find a quirky car park that looks like a sinking ship. Located where two sloping streets – 2nd and Yesler – converge, the corner of the building looks like the bow of a ship. Designed by architects Mandeville and Berge, it was built in 1961 on the site of the historic Seattle Hotel, and rumour has it the building is haunted. Today, it is an iconic city landmark and constantly appears in articles listing the coolest car parks in the world, just like this one.
Photo credit: Ian Collins
2. Volkswagen Autostadt – Wolfsburg, Germany
Wolfsburg in Germany is home to automotive titan Volkswagen. The Autostadt (German for Automobile City) is an attraction near the VW factory. Designed by Henn GmbH, the complex is home to a museum and it is the start of the Volkswagen factory tour. However, one of the coolest parts of this building is the parking lot. It is the world’s fastest automated parking facility. It takes just 1 minute and 44 seconds to fetch your car. Volkswagen keeps its brand new cars in pods in two towers made of steel and glass. When a customer picks up their new car, it is put onto a platform and lowered down. It is just like a vending machine for cars.
3. Kansas City Central Library Parking Garage – Missouri, USA
The facade of the parking garage for the Central Branch of the Kansas City public library looks like a shelf full of books. The giant community bookshelf features the spines of 22 books. The community chose the titles of these books by nominating their favourite literary classic. The book covers are 25-feet high and nine feet wide and are printed on 3M Film with Comply Adhesive. The wrap covers the south wall of the building. This is one well-read car park.
4. Parc des Celestins – Lyon, France
This underground car park beneath the Place de Celestins in Lyon, France, proves that angles are for squares and cylinders are cool. At the centre of this seven-storey building is a cylindrical air shaft that has a rotating mirror at the bottom. As the mirror turns it reflects light through the holes in the shaft which creates shimmering shining light patterns along the walls. A bit like a disco ball. So that everyone can enjoy this wonderful space, there is a viewing platform for members of the public and those without cars.
5. Ballet Valet Parking Garage – Miami, USA
Located in the historic Art Deco District in South Beach, Miami, the Ballet Valet Paring Garage is a concrete square structure. Not that you can tell this from the outside, as clever use of lush greenery conceals its boxy shape and helps it blend in with the landscape. Built in 1995, the facade features a horizontal wave design mimicking the ocean. The planters which cover the building are filled with various types of vines and vegetation, which turn the car park into a vertical green zone in the historic District.
6. The Cube – Birmingham, England
7. Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure – California, USA
The Civic Center Parking Structure provides 900 parking spaces on six levels. With its multicoloured glass-and-neon, this is a strikingly pretty car park. It’s also a sustainable structure and the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) garage in the United States. It derives part of its wattage from solar panels on the rooftop, filters oil and other automobile effluvia out of storm-water runoff and there is recycled fly ash in the concrete. It also won an award for excellence in the use of glass in architectural design.
8. Veranda Car Park – Rotterdam, The Netherlands
This building, designed by Paul de Ruiter, has an attractive exterior and a pleasant interior. Unusual, for a car park, instead of the cars, people are the central feature of the design. The Veranda car park is organised around eight levels: four levels underground and four above. The façade of the structure is made of horizontal strips of perforated and folded aluminium and small strips of mirror glass. Due to its design, when inside the building, the façade acts as a diffuse screen that lets in daylight. At night, the façade allows artificial light through and the building glows like a large lantern.
9. Michigan Theatre, Detroit, USA
The Michigan Theater parking lot is located on the site of the small garage where Henry Ford built his first automobile So it is a fitting tribute in Motor City that the cinema is now a car park. The ornate building was designed in the French Renaissance style in 1925. The theatre closed for good in 1976. Officials scheduled it for demolition. However, fearing that knocking down the building might make surrounding buildings unstable, engineers decided to repurpose the building instead as a three-storey car park with spaces for 160 cars. The wonderful thing about this car park is that you can still see the past as you drive around looking for a parking space. The ticket booth, four-story lobby, proscenium arch, part of the upper balcony, and even the red curtain, all partially remain.
Credit: Bob Jagendorf
10. Millennium Point – Birmingham, England
Located on the Jennens Road in Birmingham is a multi-storey car park that glows blue at night. The glow-in-the-dark cuboid structure is just one of many Birmingham buildings built in the Brutalist style of architecture. It was actually designed by Birmingham City Council’s in-house team and it is blue acrylic panels that create the ‘light cube’ effect of its facade.
Credit: Elliott Brown
11. 1111 Lincoln Road – Miami, USA
This cool Miami car park has a bold, innovative and striking design. Created by Herzog & de Meuron, the building was completed in 2010 and many people describe it as resembling a house of cards. Apart from housing cars, the building also functions as a community hub with spaces for public exhibitions and retail outlets. This iconic landmark has no exterior walls meaning that the vehicles parked inside become an ever-changing feature of the building. The open design also gives drivers terrific views over the city.
12. Car Park Plaza – Cajnovas, Spain
Teresa Sapey Estudio de Arquitectura designed this colourful and fun building. The space makes use of striking colours and graphics with each part of the graphic design making reference to something local. The visual displays on the walls help to guide drivers around the car park with ease. The designer had sustainability and functionality in mind and chose low power neon lights to cut down on power consumption. The lighting also complements the graphics.
13. Garagenatelier Car Park – Herdern, Switzerland
Designed by Swiss company Peter Kunz Architects, this is the most exclusive car park to make the list. There’s only enough space for eight vehicles. The designer took five cubes made of Beton and embedded them into the sloping terrain. It’s like an art installation in nature. A driveway down the mountain leads you to the cubes. A sliding glass panel allows entry into the unit and to get out, a stairway leads to the roof and level of the road. The huge glass windows flood the car park with natural light and there are inscriptions on the glass that highlight the relationship between man and automobiles.
14. Cordova Parkade – Vancouver, Canada
The Cordova Parkade pays homage to the surrounding historic buildings with its granite and steel facade, which is also inspired by 19th-century train stations. Part of the regeneration of downtown Vancouver, the building is constructed from a former department store and incorporates bits of old Vancouver bridges in its design. The blue spiral inside the car park is striking and you’ll find lots of urban explorers here taking photos for the ‘gram.
15. Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc – Brussels, Belgium
The staff at Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc in Brussels use this 985-capacity car park. de Jong Gortemaker Algra Architects wanted this building to be warm and welcoming as it is one of the first things that visitors see on arrival. Built using natural materials, the car park receives lots of daylight and fresh air through its ‘canyon wall’. It is particularly lovely when the sunlight hits and the structure glows.
16. Eureka Tower Car Park – Melbourne, Australia
The cavernous concrete car park beneath Melbourne’s Eureka Tower uses clever graphics to aid circulation and guide drivers. Graphic designers painted directions in large lettering onto the walls and floors making clever use of perspective. The words IN, OUT, UP and DOWN only become legible to motorists when they reach the appropriate point in their journey. Depending on where you are viewing the letters, they look like abstract graphics or informative directions.
Photo credit: Mathieu Ravier
17. 2KM3 at Saint-Gervais – Mont-Blanc, France
One of the coolest car parks in the world doubles as an art gallery. This underground car park in the ski village of Saint-Gervais dedicates its space to urban art. The name 2KM3 is the measurement of the walls and roof – 2,000m³ (2000 cubic metres). This is how much space different artists take over and decorate in their own way. The car park’s 11 floors and its façade are ever-evolving as new artists take up residency.
18. Al Jahra Court Automatic Parking (Kuwait)
Not enough parking spaces for all the supercars around? Kuwait has found a solution with its automatic parking system. Just drive your luxury car into a parking platform and a robotic arm will whisk it away and park it securely in a massive stack with other expensive vehicles. This system saves the driver time as they don’t have to look for a parking space and saves on the amount of space required for car parks. With 2,314 parking spaces at the Al Jahra Court, this is the largest automated parking facility in the world.
19. Quick Parking Morelli – Naples, Italy
A car park in a cave? Now that is cool! This city centre car park is inside a historic cave. The mouth of the cave acts as the entry and exit point. The building has seven levels, three of which are for car parking. For centuries, a tunnel has been connected to the cave and now, the car park levels are accessed via three tunnels. Sounds like a Bond villain car park to us.
20. Marina City – Chicago, USA
Marina City is a Chicago landmark as well as a landmark of the big screen. Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg designed it. When it was fully complete in 1967 it was the tallest residential building in the world and the tallest concrete structure in the world. The two cylindrical towers feature 19 floors of continuously spiralling parking spaces which sound like they might bring on some serious travel sickness! Thankfully, though the valets operate the car park. Steve McQueen shot scenes for the movie The Hunter in this car park.
21. Lammermarkt – Leiden, The Netherlands
Light, bright and airy, you’d never guess that the car park at Lammermarkt is the deepest car park in the Netherlands. You’ll find this user-friendly car park in the historic centre of Leiden. With its clear orientation, large parking spaces and easy to find stairs and lifts, the Lammermarkt Parking Garage is a truly delightful parking experience. The cylindrical form of the garage is compact which minimises interference with the monumental buildings surrounding it – the city is home to centuries-old buildings and windmills. The shape of the car park also means that all the levels are connected to each other and with the one-way system and no crossing traffic, safety is optimal.
Credit: JHK Architecten
22. Umihotaru Parking Area – Kisarazu, Japan
Umihotaru was built in 1997 on an artificial island. It is a stop along the aqua-line, Japan’s longest underwater tunnel. The Umihotaru Parking Area is five storeys high. Parking occupies the first three floors and retail facilities fill the two upper floors. It is a fascinating spot to shop, eat and park. It also has lovely 360° views of the Tokyo Bay area. The Umihotaru Parking Area is in the shape of a cruise ship. At night its illumination is dazzling.
23. Lego Parking House, Billund, Denmark
One of the coolest car parks in the world brings out the little kids in adults. You’ll find this car park in Billund, the home of Lego. Danish architecture studio CEBRA designed the facades of a car park. In the design, they incorporated the road layout from Lego’s City road plates. Lego originally created these road plates in 1977 and still sells them today. One of the coolest things about the design is the sizes of the perforations in the facade. These are based on the standard Lego brick. Therefore, you can attach the bricks to the perforations. This turns the walls into a canvas for play and creativity.
Photo credit: Adam Mørk
24. Herma Parking Building – South Korea
Designed by JOHO architecture you’ll find the Herma Parking Building in Yongin, South Korea. The structure comprises 600 polycarbonate panels and 900 stainless steel panels. This creates a unique shape and appearance that really makes it stand apart from other car parks. It shimmers and shines bright with its bold exterior. The building changes colour too depending on the light. It also reflects the scenes of the city off of its surface.
25. Nutwood Parking Facility – California, USA
This massive car park at California State University, Fullerton has space for 2,500 vehicles spread across its five storeys. Adjacent to the car park is the Visual and Performing Arts Center. Taking this into consideration, the car park design pays homage to the artistic nature of its visitors. Translucent glass covers one wall and this is back-lit at night time. Projected onto the glass is the movement of people, vehicles and headlights that pass by. This creates a delightful theatrical experience. The other walls feature a “living wall” made up of Greenscreen, flowering vines and bamboo.