Santa Monica Public Parking Structure

Inspired by such diverse things ranging from the quilt makers of Gee’s Bend in southwest Alabama to manufacturers of industrial shipping pallets the architects explored the potential and role pattern making can play in architecture and building construction. The main feature of the structure is the building façade, which was designed from a single mass-produced and repeatable panel composed of a series of cement board slats formed into screens resembling lumber pallets. Each panel is approximately 10 feet by 16 feet and arranged in a slightly different position or orientation relative to each adjacent panel. Additionally, some panels have a slight shift in the position of a single plank within a number of various panels. This produces a visual perception of a non-repeating complex patterned facade that is aesthetically pleasing, visually diverse, provides screening of the parked cars and is economically mass-produced. The façade is multivalent and rich with meaning performing several roles for formal, functional and experiential effect. It is also intended to make the parking structure act visually more as a building that is part of the city fabric than simply a convenient place to park your car. Both garages adjoin and serve the Frank Gehry-designed Santa Monica Place, a 1980s indoor shopping mall that in 2011 was transformed by a the Jerde Partnership-led team into an open-air shopping promenade. The new Santa Monica Place builds upon the success of the 3rd Street Promenade and Southern California’s ideal outdoor climate, creating a more walkable and street-like atmosphere. The redesign of the garages preserves the iconic steel mesh signage created by Frank Gehry, while updating many other aesthetic and functional features.

Transforming Downtown Parking

This project is the second completed phase of a multi-phased masterplan to rehabilitate the city’s 9 downtown public parking structures into more vibrant urban city fabric. Future phases will include the replacement of two existing structures and the addition of 4-6 levels onto other existing structures. These phases with also include the addition of public art, new signage and identity, streetscaping, lighting, energy efficient lighting and electronic parking controls and rooftop solar panels.

Built more that 30 years ago, the existing 9 downtown garages were built simply to house cars. Over the last two decades the city has grown into a vibrant urban environment.  The parking structures, while still needed, have become an interruption in a now people friendly downtown vibrant urban environment. Last year, as part of phase one and the Civic Center Master Plan, a new pedestrian friendly LEED certified parking structure was completed next to City Hall.

The projects include creating new facades, adding commercial and retail uses, implementing and including public art, improving signage and identity, adding bike stations and public restrooms, streetscape, energy efficient lighting and electronic parking controls and the addition of over 2500 solar panels to provide power for city facilities.

The project is a collaboration between three architectural firms, City Planning and Redevelopment Agency, Cultural Affairs and Public Works Divisions, Downtown District Development Corporation, a private developer and several artists.


Project Type


3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California, United States

Related links


  • Brooks + Scarpa Architects
  • Tina Rodriguez
  • Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA
  • Angela Brooks, AIA, Omar Barcena, Mark Buckland, Brad Buter, Silke Clemens, Stephanie Ericson, AIA, Jordon Gearhart, Chris Ghatak, Luis Gomez, Emily Hodgdon, Ching Luk, Matt Majack, Gwynne Pugh, Sri Sumantri
  • John Edward Linden