Can’t parking lots be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally and architecturally responsible?


Just as Alleys have been reclaimed as public spaces and streets worldwide have been reworked to indicate they are not just for automobiles, it is now the time to rethink parking lots.  Natural stone Porphyry paving has a role in the creation of public spaces with multi-use and time-of-day use in these areas.


Rethinking a lot resized 600One study says we’ve built eight parking spots for every car in the country. Houston is said to have 30 of them per resident. In Rethinking a Lot, a new study of parking, Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at M.I.T., points out that “in some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than a third of the land area, becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment.”

Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a conservative 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delawareand Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont. Rethinking a Lot is available through The MIT Press.

He shows us parking lots that are not concrete wastelands but lushly planted with trees and flowers and beautifully integrated with the rest of the built environment. With purposeful design, Ben-Joseph argues, parking lots could be significant public places, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks, or plazas. For all the acreage they cover, parking lots have received little attention. In the United States, parking lots may be the most regularly used outdoor space. They are public places that people interact with and use on a daily basis, whether working, shopping, running errands, eating, even walking — parking lots are one of the few places where cars and pedestrians coexist.

“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.”  – Eran Ben-Joseph


Beyond greener designs and the occasional celebrity-architect garage, we need to think more about these lots as public spaces, as part of the infrastructure of our streets and sidewalks, places for various activities that may change and evolve. We charge developers to present the public amenity components of their projects in the planning and review a process, that is how we get plazas, pocket parks and other public spaces.  In today’s urban development, outmoded parking generation guidelines drive the number of spots needed and how that is accomplished is left up to the developer and usually at the lowest cost. If the planning officials raised expectations for the parking scheme, more creative landscape design proposals would come forth.

Porphyry Parking lot Uptown Albuquerque resized 600                                 Porphyry parking area Uptown Albuquerque-MIlestone Imports

About the Author

Eran Ben-Joseph has worked as a city planner and urban designer in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT, he is the author of The Code of the City (MIT Press) and coauthor of Streets and the Shaping of Towns and Cities and RENEW Town.

Book Cover Photo Credit – The MIT Press

Other Milestone posts to review….Porphyry and the Urban Alley


Porphyry’s composition determines its high compression strength, resistance to stains, slip resistance, and high freeze/thaw ratings.  The stone is the most popular paver in Europe, and is favored for its flexibility in design, beauty, durability and low maintenance requirements. ADA Compliant Porphyry pavers are also adaptable to a permeable paving set. The stone is by far one of the most durable pavers in the world.  These materials are available from Milestone Imports.   –