House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage opens at the National Building Museum

August 25, 2009 |

In a world without parking garages, parking lots would sprawl across our cities. For more than 100 years, the parking garage has provided design and engineering solutions to the parking problem. House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., is the first major exhibition to explore the history of this familiar structure and open conversations about innovative designs and parking solutions for the future.

On display  from October 17, 2009 through July 11, 2010, House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage will reveal the many facets of this building type: a showcase for innovation; a platform for some of the 20th century’s best-known architects; and now, potentially, a valuable component of responsible and sustainable city planning. Visitors will learn how the parking facility evolved from an ornate, enclosed structure to the open deck and integrated forms we see today. House of Cars explores how the parked car has changed our built environment. The idea for the exhibition was brought to the Museum by Shannon Sanders McDonald, author of The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form, published by the Urban Land Institute in 2007.

The exhibition starts with photographs, drawings, and a vintage 1927 Ford Model A that examine the birth of the parking garage in the early 20th century. The section on engineering invites visitors to test out a ramp system, view architectural plans and patents, learn about 1950s experiments in automated hoist systems, and see examples of the first underground garages. The exhibition features replicas of structural systems such as columns and beams as well as an early time stamp machine, parking attendant hats, and mid-century films in which parking was promoted as the key to a successful urban development. A gallery including fine art and examples drawn from the big and small-screen provides a look at how the parking garage has inspired popular culture throughout the years. Visitors see images and artifacts from innovative garage façades, including reproductions of drawings by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Eero Saarinen. The exhibition concludes with a look at the future of parking, featuring photographs, renderings, and models of “green garages” as well as new types of parking solutions.

The presenting sponsor of House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage is the National Parking Association, headquartered in Washington, D.C. “We are honored to be the presenting sponsor of this exciting exhibition,” said Martin L. Stein, President. “The National Parking Association, which has served the industry since 1951, is the go- to-place for information, education, and networking opportunities for parking professionals. Our partnership with the National Building Museum for House of Cars assists us in educating people outside our industry about the history, viability, and important service we provide to the success of cities all across North America. I would also like to recognize members Brett Harwood, Gary Cudney of Carl Walker, Inc., Derek Kiley of WPS North America, Herb Anderson of Impark, and Scott Burr of Tech Painting, for their generous support in making this presenting sponsorship possible.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum is developing a variety of education programs intended to further examine the parking garage’s role in our society. A lecture series will cover topics ranging from green design and urban planning to the future of transportation and parking. The National Building Museum will also host a film series surveying the many roles played by the parking garage on screen, from extreme action and intrigue to avant-garde expression.

The presenting sponsor of House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage is the National Parking Association. Additional support is provided by The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; Colonial Parking, Inc.; Carl Walker, Inc.; Harwood Properties; Impark; Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, with International Parking Design; Tech Painting Company; and WPS North America, among others. McGraw-Hill Construction is the official media partner.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to exploring and celebrating architecture, design, engineering, construction, and planning. Chartered by Congress in 1980 and open to the public since 1985, the Museum has become a vital forum for exchanging ideas and information about the built environment through its exhibitions, education programs, and publications. The Museum is located at 401 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. Museum Shop. Café.

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