Monday, March 26, 2012

Porous Parking Lots

The new Starbucks on Dobbin Road has a green parking lot. Instead of the usual impervious blacktop, the parking pads are constructed with porous asphalt which allows water to seep through instead of running off. I originally encountered porous asphalt at the new Robinson Nature Center last fall but this is the first commercial application I’ve seen in HoCo.

Parking lots were the subject of a recent New York Times op-ed piece by MIT professor Eran Ben-Joseph in which he referred to them as “the antithesis of nature’s fields and forests, an ugly reminder of the costs of our automobile-oriented society.”

“Or is it? I believe that the modern surface parking lot is ripe for transformation. Few of us spend much time thinking about parking beyond availability and convenience. But parking lots are, in fact, much more than spots to temporarily store cars: they are public spaces that have major impacts on the design of our cities and suburbs, on the natural environment and on the rhythms of daily life. We need to redefine what we mean by “parking lot” to include something that not only allows a driver to park his car, but also offers a variety of other public uses, mitigates its effect on the environment and gives greater consideration to aesthetics and architectural context.”

In other words, parking lots, and their place in the built environment, are beginning to get a lot more attention from architects and planners.
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