Chicago Filter Park is the first-place winner of the 2003 Chicago Prize Competition for a thousand-car parking facility. Our proposal begins with three basic strategies: to reconsider the parking facility as part of a larger system of urban infrastructure; to challenge preconceptions of how a parking structure functions, both technologically and environmentally; and to change the way parking lots look.
Located on the northern edge of the competition site, the parking facility is composed of two thin linear structures of automated parking; between them runs a bridge and hanging tree garden, where pedestrians and cyclists can cross the Kennedy Expressway. This non-car access to the parking structure occurs on a series of ramping berms that invert the patterns of the expressway and its strips of highway and ramps. Automobile access occupies the slices between the berms. The ramping access to the parking garage reformulates the morphology of the highway by creating a functioning urban earthwork that provides for pedestrian inhabitation and filtering of automobile exhaust. Cyclists and pedestrians use the ramps as a means of access to and from the building, and a system of fans, filters, and vents cleans the air fouled by the cars waiting to be parked.
The scheme proposes a two-bar linear automated parking system in order to greatly reduce the physical impact on this urban site of a thousand-car parking structure and its related auto emissions. The elimination of vehicular ramps allows the building to be significantly less massive, just as the elimination of cars’ driving in circles in search of parking at rush hour reduces pollution in the building and surrounding area. Moreover, the structural system requires less material and erection time, thereby reducing costs. The net gain in square footage by using this automated system opens up the rest of the site for other green and public programs.
Promoting the idea that a parking facility can be a public building that includes other amenities, our scheme adds to the competition’s program a bus terminal at street level, bike-rental shop, tourist-information office, pedestrian/cyclist bridge at plaza level, and roof-garden café that overlooks the skyline from the top level. These additions to the given program expand the concept of an urban parking facility into an intermodal, informational, sustainable public amenity for the city of Chicago.
The layout of the parking is designed to maximize the filtering of light into the central bridge and garden space, as well as to expose the daily, weekly, and monthly cycle of use. By placing cars against a glass skin, the exterior and interior facades of the two parking structures act as an occupancy sign that changes depending on whether the garage is full or empty. Commuters on the Kennedy Expressway can easily see whether there is plenty of parking space or whether it is full, and pedestrians and cyclists can see the automated parking system in action as they travel on the bridge.