Color blocking in car parks is a ubiquitous form of way-finding that we subconsciously register for – Yellow = Level 3. But what if these incredibly high-volume traffic zones were a little more creative in attracting their captive audience?
This is not a new idea; But we would like to think that this was one that is ripe to grow.
An Australian art company operating in this area is Art Pharmacy. They take their experience working with developers and councils and advance the idea that car parks can also be ‘culture parks’, capturing visitors early on in their destination journey and narrative.
ArtHub caught up with one of its project managers, Brunella Muddle, who said ‘Artifacts made for parking stations’ definitely public art’.
She went on to say that ‘Graffiti is so cool, there’s so much more you can do to activate these places after hours.’
What is driving car park activation?
In the City of Sydney, any development project over $10 million is encouraged to spend 1% of its budget on public art. ‘It’s not enforceable, only recommended,’ said Muddle, ‘but the city of Sydney is very strict in encouraging it, and has a great public art panel.’
There are similar plans in other cities as well. Muddle said: ‘As with public art, it has to be in a place where the public can access it. Sometimes Cars Aren’t Parked [accessible]But you should not rule out car parking as an option.
Why? There is little visual competition in car parks; They have a captive audience, and an underlying history of visual route finding that can easily be expanded upon.
Artists started this trend by activating car parks. London has a lot to do, such as Brewery Street Carpark. the great thing about them is that they [can also] Be event spaces – they are the perfect blank canvas for art and events, and they lend [themselves] For digital projection and display.
“While the murals are the most popular, I think car park activism can go much further than that,” Mudley told ArtsHub.
What works best?
A clue to what works best is the success of way-finding methods and a long tradition of mural art.
Clearly, graphically bold designs are best, says Moodle, but adds: ‘I think there’s some sort of community or local element that ties the design to the area – whether it’s abstract or more in design. Be it literally – can also succeed.’
Where possible, the art pharmacy has chosen to engage local artists with the project. One example is a recently completed car park project in the Sydney suburb of Newtown. Muddle said the site was very dark, and security was a major priority in the commission.
‘Often the aim is to brighten up the space, giving the idea that people feel safe – safety is a big deal when it comes to car parks – hence the use of color in an abbreviation usually. Sometimes the idea of ”introducing a community” is brief, and creates an unexpected surprise,’ she explained.
Mudley said designs that extend beyond one area — such as an elevator lobby, draping columns or climbing stairs — are also a great way to engage the captive public.
He describes a project by the April Group for his new building, Habitat House in Suri Hills (2020), where artist Claire Nakazawa worked after-hours, slowing down elevator shafts over a two-week period.
It was one of those wonderful places; This is not expected.
Brunella Muddle, Art Pharmacy
‘This artwork is a mural of moving images. It explores how to change color, shape and texture as it travels through the levels in the elevator. The mirrored ceiling elevates the artwork while creating symmetry by reflecting the design above the traveler’s head. This site specific mural provides a glimpse into an often overlooked space,’ said Nakazawa of the project.
Emily Coliver, Founding Art Pharmacy, said: ‘Our challenge was to find a muralist who could design not only a flexible, site specific artwork, but someone who could sit at the top of an elevator in a confined space. Be comfortable painting artwork for countless nights. Directly on the surface of raw cement.’
Muddle said he thinks there is growing interest from developers and councils to pick up on the trend, and here’s an opportunity for artists.
Longevity, Maintenance and Contract
Muddle says any commissioned public artwork should come with a maintenance manual as part of the project. Similarly, any murals are finished with an anti-graffiti coating.
He said that one of the benefits of car parks is that ‘because they are inside, they are not exposed to the elements’, due to their crude construction, ‘sometimes we have to spend a little more time ensuring the walls Is. are properly prepared.
‘Mural painting in the workplace is also definitely on the rise, especially after COVID. Companies want to pull people back with that engagement. We’re also seeing that they want to launch one when it’s done, talk to an artist to get the staff together. I have seen [recent commissions] are certainly not just about the arts, but how they can involve people, especially after it’s done,’ she continued.
‘Some even want to get them into the process of artwork, invite staff to contribute to the concept [ideas],
And, like any other commissioned artwork, Mudley says that any contract for CarPark activation “usually contains a deaccessing clause in the customer contract, which [requests] If they are planning to remove the artwork, they consult us so that we can advise the artist.
Global trend of car park activation
In the last decade, the trend of reactivating these multi-storey places has increased. Some of the better known examples are:
Soho’s 1930s Art Deco Brewer Street car park, which has been quietly reinventing itself as a major cultural center over the years, hosts audio-visual art exhibitions, such as American Bill Viola, Japanese Ryoi Ikeda , Richard Mosse, and German artist Carsten Nikolai, and from 2015, the British Fashion Council moved London Fashion Week to a car park.
The other is Peckham Levels (in south London), designed in the 1980s but re-imagined in 2008 as a hybrid cultural venue by gallerist Hannah Barry, co-founded and designed by Carl Turner Architects. with the venture. They transformed the top three floors into a sculpture park and event space that comes alive from June to September each year.
And, demonstrating how far the car park activation concept can go, there are several international examples where architects have taken a ‘blank canvas’ adaptation, and put the ‘car park to culture park’ thinking before the ground up in the plan . Even broke on construction.
Designed by award-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, beginning at 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami (USA), it was envisioned by developer Robert Venet as ‘a cultural plane where people can produce culture’. This includes retail as well as parking, yoga studio, event space and roof top dining. It opened in 2010.
“I found this opportunity to change people’s perception of what parking is and create a type of building that becomes a social gathering place and a public space,” Vennett told Dezeen.
And like 1111 Lincoln Road, The Z in Downtown Detroit (USA) was treated as a ‘destination’ from the get-go. In addition to its 1,287 parking bays, it has 34,000 square feet of retail and multi-use space. Twenty-seven international artists were commissioned to transform the interior walls of The Jade, a designated art space called ‘The Belt’.
This Detroit fine art gallery is a creative collaboration between Library Street Collective and Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Company – the major players on the Detroit real estate scene – and opened in 2014.
Another example is the Uratlantic Car Park in Bordeaux (France), designed by architect Brissac Gonzales. He says: ‘In many cases, car parks become inactive after business hours, creating activity dead zones. The Uratlantic troubleshoots this day/night balance.’
From inception to ARI (Artist Run Initiatives), another example was the Parking Project in Berlin, run by Australian artist Scott Chesling, and of course the five-year success of Alaska Projects (2011–2016, when it was built as a shopfront). was remodeled in). In a car park operated by curator Sebastian Goldspink at King’s Cross in Sydney. Various projects by C3West in western Sydney and Pari in Parramatta have used the car park for both pop-up artworks and displays.
Keep your eyes peeled for other examples, or better still, contact your local council and help spread the trend.