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The astonishing legacy of car park architecture


With the mass production of cars in the 1960's, privately owned car parks contributed to a modernist legacy of architecture not witnessed before and considered by some historians now to be of significance.

The Royal Academy's current exhibition 'Futures Found' celebrates this looking at the real and imagined cityscapes of post-war Britain. One of the photographs is of the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear. Car parks because of their private funding were of lesser interest to ambitious designers seeking prestigious public commissions but these 'anonymous skeletal structures' continue to dominate our city centre landscapes. Some academic commentators now describe them as 'astonishing sculptural invention' on a level with work by Le Corbusier.

However, at our recent forum on 6th March at the IET, Head of Transport, Brian Matthews at Milton Keynes Council talked on the 'smart cities' panel about the acres of car parking spaces in the city and might be radically reduced through the introduction of driverless cars. The council has finished its trials of these vehicles and is now introducing them to the streets. Shared ownership of them, the council hopes, might reduce the numbers of cars on the city's roads and therefore the need for large car parks.

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