Let's talk about...parking


The first multi-storey car park opened in 1901 in central London. 55 years later, The Bay Parkade (now known as the Bow Parkade) was built in response to Calgary’s booming economy and became the first parkade constructed in Alberta. The opening of this parkade was perceived as a symbol of progress and was celebrated by Calgarians, according to Glenbow Archives.

CPA lot 54 Centennial Parkade, where the conversation took place, was built in late 1990s and designed by Gibbs Gage Architects. With a capacity for 1,007 parking stalls, the parkade resembles the character of an old warehouse, perhaps with a hint of Postmodernism, that spans a full block with an arcade along 9th Avenue SW. There are 11,986 off-street parking stalls in Calgary, and fifty-five per cent of them are located downtown. These stalls occupy a space equivalent to 9.5 arenas the size of Bell Centre in Montreal, which seats 21,288 people.

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz


Moderator: Aaron Betsky is a critic, curator, and President of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. He is the author of more than a dozen books on art, architecture and design including: Architecture Matters, Landscrapers: Building with the Land, Architecture Must Burn: Manifestos for the Future of Architecture, False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so Good, Building Sex: Men, Women, Architecture and the Construction of Sexuality, and Queer Space: Architecture and Same-Sex Desire. He was the former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the curator of Architecture, Design and Digital Projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He directed the 11th Exhibition of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Ali McMillan is the Planning and Development Director for the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association. Passionate about collaborative, grassroots community building, Ali employs small opportunities to build strong community interaction within the neighbourhood. Winning a micro-grant from The City of Calgary, she led the design of a tactical intersection intervention—where 20 volunteers painted an array of colourful polkadots on the street as a traffic-calming measure. She’s working on a Masterplan of a large institutional district in her community, working on a project to reclaim a brownfield site under an overpass, and revitalizing the Village Pizza in Bridgeland, in addition to continuing other tactical urbanism projects.

Alkarim Devani, along with Maj Devani, is the Founder of RNDSQR, a residential and commercial development company that turns inner-city spaces into multi-use mid-rise residences. A young company, their projects have captured international attention: The Grow residence breaking ground now and designed by MoDA with a switchback rooftop garden, has received a Canadian Architect Award, an American Architectural Prize and and an Azure Award for Design Excellence. Continuing their presence in the urban framework, the company has launched RNDSQR LIFE, that will see over 400 purpose built multifamily/mixed use units between here and Winnipeg with ambitions on changing the rental landscape. A subscription-based model, it will be design-driven, sustainable and uphold community-based living at its core.

Judy MacDougall is an Architect and Principal in the Calgary office of Kasian Architecture. She brings a track record of over 20 years in developing complex buildings that focus on impactful, human-centred experiences. As Kasian’s fervent Senior Living sector leader, Judy naturally displays a devotion to enhancing people’s lives by creating communities and inspiring quality of life through the built environment. Judy’s passion for designing an environmentally sound world has affirmed her place as a leader in sustainable design. Specializing in community-based, institutional, and commercial mixed-use projects, Judy ignites her team to create spaces that facilitate learning, personal development, and social engagement.

Reachel Knight is the Coordinator of Business Strategy for the Calgary Parking Authority, an organization that fulfills the City of Calgary parking mandates and implements parking policies by managing on and off-site public parking facilities. She is in charge of managing nearly 40 parking facilities as well as creating development strategies and negotiating joint venture project agreements for the CPA and the City. Reachel managed the pre-construction of CPA’s first joint venture project that converted a surface parking lot into a strata development with a residential condominium and public parkade. She is currently developing a revised Land Asset Strategy to address current development trends in Downtown Calgary and working on the new mixed-use parkade in East Village.

Thom Mahler is the Manager, Urban Strategy with the City of Calgary where he is responsible for leading projects in strategic areas of the City particularly in the City Centre and its priority Main Streets. He has previously served in various managerial roles in the City’s planning department where he was responsible for long term planning, development review and land use applications primarily in Calgary’s established inner city communities and Centre City areas. In addition to his 15 years of experience with the City of Calgary, he has also practiced in Southwestern Ontario and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. He is currently serving as Vice President of the Council for Canadian Urbanism.

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Event Summary

The City Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who is currently on a Calgary Parking Authority board, talked about the importance of parking in our social, cultural and environmental lives. He raised questions about what post-parking might look like and how technology will affect the way we park today.

The panel discussion explored the feasibility of multi-functional parking structures that can also be utilized in different ways and maybe even offer significant public space. On average, a car in Calgary is estimated to be idle 95% of the time. Are there more efficient ways of accommodating that idle time? How important will it be in the future to have an available parking stall for it? Car storage (and parking as a primary land use) is something that many cities are starting to look at.

Audience questions brought forward some of the reasons why parking is so central to our lives: we may find parking unattractive and unfitting in urban design, yet we want to be able to park our cars close to our destination when we drive. Parking is influenced by the concept of accessibility and desire for the comfort and private space of an automobile. And yet, someone asked, is parking inclusive? In order to park a car you have to first have the means to buy one.

How can we transform exciting parking spaces, so they are integrated with the rest of built environment and add value to the communities? It is essential to raise questions about the importance of parking in one’s life, challenge views on public transport, and signify the value of alternative modes of transportation.

Continuing the Conversation

We encouraged everyone to participate in a PARK(ing) Day that took place on Friday, September 21, on Centre Street between Calgary Tower and a Bow Building. We hope this conversation will inspire more interest in convening around some parklets in downtown Calgary.

The Panelist book is called Rethinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph, and can be found at Shelf Life Books. It describes a historical apprise of parking and shows a different vision on parking future: how multi-use for parking lots can be created so that they are aesthetically pleasing, and environmentally and architecturally responsible.

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

Event Supporters

This event was support by:

Thanks to the Calgary Parking Authority for providing us the space for the event, Evolution AV for their audio support and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and Rosso Coffee Roasters for the delicious food and treats.

As well, a big thank you to the d.talks individual and organizational members, without whom the event would have not happened! And finally, our volunteers, who made event run smoothly, and guests, who through their provoking questions and comments made this event a memorable one!

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz

image: Jesus Martin Ruiz