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Perfect Parking Spots, Perfect Curves

Hidden Parking Gem

The Elmwood Village, home to a unique pedestrian avenue with storefronts, restaurants, bars and apartments, has simple but effective solutions for parking. The John C. Gallagher, Sr. Parking Ramp, a parking garage located behind the former Pier 1 at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street, is an interesting look at the intersection between a bulky concrete structure with surrounding storefronts, restaurants and apartments along Elmwood Avenue. The Gallagher Parking Ramp, despite its physically domineering nature, is effectively hidden from view.

The Gallagher Parking Ramp, like other parking garages, is a space that is commanded by function. It allows for the maximum number of vehicles while providing space for those vehicles to circulate. The roof is also simultaneously the fourth level for parking. The design is simple and efficient. The material, reinforced pre-cast concrete, creates a looming and heavy environment, which also is reflected by the weight capacity of 40 pounds per square foot.

The visual weight of the Gallagher Parking Garage, however, is effectively minimized. Located approximately 50 feet from the sidewalk curb, the obtrusive concrete construct does not impinge on surrounding storefronts and restaurants. In addition, the 12-story apartment complex adjacent on the same block puts the parking garage completely out of view.

This effect is mirrored in other parking spaces along Elmwood Avenue. A parking lot sits hidden behind Subway off Forest Avenue near Elmwood. Another sits right behind Le Metro at the corner of West Utica and Elmwood. These solutions mimic the tucked-in aspect of the Gallagher Parking Garage. Other solutions include side parking, as demonstrated effectively by the Lexington Co-op and Blockbuster, which have narrow but functional flow for traffic. The space between pedestrian and storefront is open and creates a unique, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere of Elmwood.

There are, however, parking spaces that interrupt pedestrian flow. The parking lots of Rite-Aid, along the corner of Bryant Street and Elmwood, and also Latina’s Supermarket on the corner of Summer and Elmwood, are located in front of the storefront. For pedestrians, this creates a barrier both visually and physically between sidewalk and storefront. The parking lot in front of Wilson Farms is also poorly designed because it creates a very dysfunctional flow for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. These designs marginalize the open environment of Elmwood.

This is not to say that these “chain” stores or restaurants cannot adapt and sit comfortably along Elmwood. The parking lot in between the Burger King and Starbucks near Bidwell Parkway frees pedestrians to directly engage storefronts. There is no obstructive parking lot between store and curb. Parking remains minimized, again, as demonstrated effectively by the Gallagher Parking Garage.

Parking lots and parking garages have a subtle but profound influence on environment, as demonstrated in the Elmwood Village area. The Gallagher, Parking Ramp, though one of the largest and most obtrusive structures on its block, is cleverly situated to maximize parking while still remaining discreet.

What You See Can

Be What You Get

In architectural design, complex forms created digitally on computers are do not always manifest so perfectly in the real world. Curves, for example, are a challenge to create with conventional materials like wood or metal.

William Massie’s architectural work engages this gap between virtual and real. Using advanced digital technology along with CNC, or computer numerical control, technology, Massie constructs building parts in studio, which are then brought to the site and put together like a giant puzzle piece, as shown in his design and construction of his Big Belt House in Montana. Through the work of Massie, a new technological revolution in architecture offers a different and unique approach where ideas flow directly to form.

With studies at both Parsons School of Design and Columbia University, Massie has taught at various schools including Columbia University, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, Montana State University and Parsons School of Design. He is the current architect-in-residence and head of the architecture department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

Massie has been recognized for his research in “Augmented Reality in Architectural Construction” in 1997 and “Virtual Model to Actual Construct” in 1998. He has also received Progressive Architecture awards from Architecture magazine for the design of the Big Belt House, and he was winner of the Museum of Modern Art’s Young Architects Program Competition for his Playa Urbana/Urban Beach in 2002.

William Massie will speak at the University at Buffalo Crosby Lecture Hall on Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30pm.

Design Matters is presented in association with the UB School of Architecture and Planning and supported by a fellowship endowed by Polis Realty.