Can parking garages be considered beautiful? Is there a way to design parking garages that positively impact the built environment of a city? Every day, I find myself walking past Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, which is in the middle of construction as part of City Arch River. One garage in particular will be a main backdrop for the new design. With Kiener Plaza getting some much needed attention, it struck me that the parking garages surrounding the plaza are in need of some love as well. It doesn’t have to mean redesigning the whole garage, but instead potentially focusing on the façade and exploring different ways to liven up the design and the spaces it impacts.
With a very simple approach, the South façade of these garages can be transformed to better fit the vision of City Arch River and help continue the trend of transforming Downtown St. Louis into a more beautiful and architecturally pleasing place to visit and work. Whether a mural painted by local St. Louis artists or even banners the width of each segment that come together to display an image spread across the length of the façade, it is easy to see how quickly this garage could positively impact Kiener Plaza. With the addition of the Cardinals Outfield Wall, a skyline of St. Louis, or even a row of trees painted on the slats of this façade, this garage could become something interesting that will help the overall success of the new Kiener Plaza and the surrounding areas.
Now these are just several different explorations of what images could be displayed on this façade, but it is easy to see how this could be taken a step further. Video screens could be added to the garage, providing a platform to display TV clips, advertisements, announcements, or even light shows. Green Walls could be incorporated into the slats to help provide natural ventilation inside the garage and add a natural element to the facade. Even calling local St. Louis artists to come out and each paint one exterior panel, as part of a bigger mural, could liven up the garage and help bring residents of the city together. These are a little bit more ambitious approaches, but they would do wonders for how people would experience the new Kiener Plaza and subsequently downtown St. Louis.
With the effort that is being put into redesigning the Arch Grounds and Kiener Plaza as part of the City Arch River Initiative, it is important that as a city we use this momentum to positively impact other areas of Downtown St. Louis and throughout our town. From the North Riverfront, to Midtown, to the parking garages on Chestnut, positive change and success can come in all different sizes. Reimaging the way we see this parking garage could be just the start to improving the urban landscape of our city.