With a frame by Frank Gehry and a new and striking skin by Brooks + Scarpa, the Santa Monica Municipal Parking Garage represents an awe-inspiring eco-renovation.
It was about time for an overhaul. Built in 1980, the parking garage for the Santa Monica Place Mall – both designed by Gehry – was severely outdated. Its design looked even more passé when contrasted with the three-storey mall’s recent renovations, which morphed into a sleek open-air shopping promenade last summer.
Enter Brooks + Scarpa. The city commissioned the L.A. firm to bring the garage into the 21st century, making it both functional and stylish – a task that was challenging but not impossible (witness the 11 11 Lincoln Road garage by Herzog & de Meuron). The Santa Monica garage opened this past spring and it’s clear the firm succeeded.
The structure’s showstopper is its façade, comprised of prefabricated cement board slats that resemble lumber pallets and recall both the handiwork of southwest Alabama quilt makers and industrial shipping crates. In a repetitious series that encloses the upper section, each panel is arranged in a slightly different position, producing an effect that appears complex and random. Functionally, it provides screening for the cars. The architects also preserved some of the structure’s original elements, such as Gehry’s iconic steel mesh signage.
The architects added retail kiosks on the ground level, a bike station, and better pedestrian access. And they incorporated public art initiatives, such as the Cradle installation by Ball Nogues.
A secondary phase, not yet complete, will see over 1,000 overhead canopies equipped with solar panels installed on top of the parking levels. They will provide shade plus electric energy for the complex and other city public buildings.
Along with this garage, Brooks + Scarpa also renovated eight other city-owned parking structures surrounding the Third Street Promenade of Santa Monica, a shopping and dining district popular with tourists.