Saturday, March 7, 2009


"The parking garage is a peculiar twentieth-century phenomenon. The one in New Haven comes from the design of throughways....I wanted to make a building which said it dealt with cars and movement. I wanted there to be no doubt that this is a parking garage." (Paul Rudolph)
I have a strange architectural affinity for parking garages.  I suppose I love their simplicity and utility and the fact that they are, unlike most multi-story structures, basically a continuous surface from bottom to top--a combination of folds and ramps and decks and spirals.

While studying at Yale, I took a class called "Photography for Architects" in which we learned some basic SLR photography techniques, developed black-and-white film, and printed black-and-white photographs in the darkroom.  For our final project that semester, we were asked to pick a theme on which to build a collection of images, and I chose to photograph several parking garages around New Haven:  the Coliseum (demolished 2007), the Air Rights Garage, the Crown Street Garage, and the Temple Street Garage.  My photographs at the time attempted to focus not only on the parking garage as form in light and shadow, but also also on their upper decks as a sort of urban landscape, populated with stair towers, light fixtures, cars, and, perhaps most interestingly, the tops of the surrounding buildings, ungrounded and without context.

One of my favorites is the Temple Street Parking Garage, designed by Paul Rudolph and completed in 1963.  I love it because it is monumental, exuberant, retro, "cartoony," and "designy."  Sometimes I think it looks as if it was not built by humans but by some colony of giant insects--or perhaps it emerged out of some strange geologic event which left it standing after all the soil around it was eroded by water over the course of a million years.  The garage's slightly anamorphic stair and elevator towers peek out of the upper deck like sentinels guarding the city beyond, lit by their strange concrete light-pole companions and distinguished by their bright red and orange tile work--the choice of colors a product of 1960s design trends no doubt!  (The strange residential sun room-like backpacks and tangle of exposed electrical conduit running along the tiles are, I am certain, not original to the structure.)

I recently decided to stop back by the Temple Street Garage to try my eye at some photography with our new DSLR.  Last time I shot the garage, I was shooting black-and-white film.  But now, using digital photography and the magic of Photoshop, I was able to process these new photos to emphasize the vibrant color of the tile work on the stair towers, which I have done by using the channel mixer to remove the color from the remainder of the photograph.

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