Let’s be honest: most of us don’t associate the phrase “natural beauty” with the words “parking spot.” Still, for many car-bound travellers, especially those in metropolitan areas, quality parking spots are a rare and precious treasure. Not all parking spots are created equal: some are simply more spacious than others, while still others are better located, and a few are even—as strange as it is to say—beautiful.
Parking spots might be one of the most (understandably) neglected parts of our visual culture. At their root, most parking spots are simple open rectangles: modular, white, and unforgivingly bland. But their very banality is what makes the exceptions that much more interesting. And some parking spots have actually been impeccably designed, while others are located atop stunning vistas or open plateaus. Here’s a look at 10 of the most stunning parking spots in the world.
1. Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles: city of endless sun, brilliant cinema, and … parking spots. Tens of thousands of them, to be precise, in a city that continues to be defined by the automobile. While Los Angeles has taken a lot of (well-deserved) flack for its reliance on private transportation, artists have done their best to reclaim the city’s wide open cement-scape. Take, for example, this work, designed by OBEY Giant and infamous street artist, Shepard Fairey. While the surrounding settings might seem pretty prosaic, this violently energetic mural was painted on the walls of a library parking garage!
2. Kansas City, Missouri
In another outrageous (and strange) win for libraries, Kansas City decided to dress up their parking garage by making it look like a Barnes and Noble classics bookshelf. Titles range from “Their Eyes Were Watching God” to “The Invisible Man” to the middle-school favorite (or not-favorite) “Huck Finn.” The concept is brilliant, the execution perfection, and the parking spots: infinitely plentiful.
3. Santa Monica, California
Lovingly named the “Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure,” this garage has to be one of the only parking garages in the world with five-star reviews (also: Who is spending the time to write free parking garage reviews for Yelp?). Solar panels power this 300,000 square foot structure, and stunning/energy-efficient LED lights light the entire building. This parking garage was the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) garage in California.
4. Munich, Germany
Feel like traveling halfway across the world to see a parking garage? Of course you don’t, but if you’re in Munich, Germany, head over to the awesome BMW Museum, which details the history of the beloved luxury automobile. Even if you don’t like learning about cars, you can’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime parking experience (okay, you can, but—look how stunning!)
5. Detroit, Michigan
Designed in a jaw-dropping French Renaissance style in 1925, The Michigan Theater could once hold up to 4,025 people in its audience. To accommodate all those people, the theater needed not only wait staff and clean bathrooms, but one hell of a parking garage. The theater has since closed and the parking garage fallen into disrepair, but remnants of its original glory remain.
6. Wolfsburg, Germany
Germany: Home to some of the world’s best music, art, and parking garages. Known as Autostadt, this 200 foot parking garage is used exclusively to park Volkswagon cars. The vibrant, white, psychedelic design makes Autostadt feel like it was pulled out an 80’s sci-fi movie: refreshingly modern, creatively bombastic, and deeply, strangely, real.
7. Seoul, South Korea
You know what they say about South Korea: you come for the culture, you stay for the parking garages. Or maybe they don’t say that, but who cares—the Herma Parking Building of Seoul, South Korea has to be one of the city’s finest pieces of architecture, period. Designed by JOHO Architecture, the Herma building combines a futuristic minimalism with over 600 polycarbonate and 900 stainless steel panels. Perfection.
8. Chicago, IllinoisChicago might be one of the most historic cities in the country, but all of their landmarks simply pale in comparison to their parking garages. At the top of everyone’s list is the Marina City parking garage, an enormous, contemporary, cylindrical, structure that bravely looks out over Lake Michigan.
9. Miami, Florida
Designed by famous Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, this stunning parking garage sits atop Miami Beach, offering some of the city’s best views. Known as 1111 Lincoln Road, the building captures the essence of “tropical modernism” with incredible urban-suburban convenience.
10. Birmingham, United Kingdom
Like many cities in England’s Midlands, Birmingham was once an up-and-coming factory town. And while some of that industry might have faded out, Birmingham decided to stay firmly in the present—with a parking garage. Designed by Mark Sloane of Acivico, Millennium Point glows blue at night, signaling unapologetic urbanity, postmodernity, and yes, one hell of a parking spot.