The Parking Garage: The Next Frontier in Adaptive Reuse?

With tiny housing units, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design stake out a new future for the urban parking garage.
SCADpad Europe

The European-themed SCADpad unit includes about 40,000 pieces of fabric and and a custom rubber surface on the floors, walls, and ceiling. Photo courtesy of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

What is the future of urban living? An interdisciplinary team of students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) may have found the answer in a parking deck overlooking downtown Atlanta.

Administrators at the college—which has campuses in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, as well as Hong Kong and Lacoste, France—pored over census and other demographic data that suggested that there were as many as five parking spaces for every registered car in the United States. Many of these underused parking spaces are concentrated in unsightly parking decks in and around the center of major cities—areas where residential real estate is selling at a premium.

Wouldn’t it make sense, they wondered, to design micro-housing units that could fit within the footprint of a standard 135-square-foot parking space, effectively making the parking garage the next frontier for adaptive reuse?

Led by a dozen faculty members and assisted by 37 alumni, 75 SCAD students took up the challenge, developing three so-called SCADpad prototypes over the course of the last 10 months that the college unveiled this week in a garage with sweeping views of the Atlanta skyline.

SCADpad North America

The North American SCADpad includes about 300 repurposed vintage rulers. Photo courtesy of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Each of the three SCADpads has a geographical design theme—North America, Asia, and Europe, for each continent where SCAD maintains a campus. The students worked on every detail of each structure, from the architecture to the furniture and even a smartphone application that controls the lighting system. There also is a common green space with an organic garden fed by a greywater filtration and delivery system and, adjacent to that, a communal area, which school officials have dubbed the “work bench,” where residents can use a 3-D printer to produce custom accessories for their homes.

SCAD students will continue the experiment by taking turns living in the units, “as well as some guests who want the experience of taking them for a test drive, so to speak,” says Christian Sottile, dean of the college’s School of Building Arts.

“We’re looking at efficiency and how to develop space-conscious urban living,” Sottile says, “but also how to reimagine the 20th century parking deck, which is facing obsolescence in this new urban century, by repurposing them as 21st century vertical neighborhoods, and taking the city back one parking space at a time.”

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