House of Cars – Exhibit Opens at National Building Museum


House of Cars – Exhibit Opens at National Building Museum

Sponsored by the National Parking Association, a new exhibition at the National Building Museum, House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage opened October 17. It is the first major exhibition to explore the history of this familiar structure and inspire conversations about innovative designs and parking solutions for the future.
“We are honored to be the presenting sponsor of this exciting exhibition,” said Martin L. Stein, NPA President. “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.
We are also honored to be able to take the exhibition “on the road’ and will be presenting it during our conventions in Boston in 2010, Las Vegas in 2011, and in 2012 in a location to be determined. The sponsor of the road show is Andrew Blair of Colonial Parking.”
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. Visitors see images and artifacts from innovative garage faƧades, 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.
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 Museum will also offer free, docent-lead tours of the exhibition beginning November 13. The tours will be 45 minutes in length and will be offered daily at 2 pm. For details and up-to-date information on the exhibition and associated programming, please visit

House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage is divided into six galleries.
Early Car Culture examines the birth of the parking garage in the early 20th century.
How Does it Work? focuses on the engineering elements of parking garages including the ramp system, automated hoist systems, and underground garages.
The Mid-Century Garage examines the parking garage building boom in the 1950s.
How Does it Look? features innovative parking garage designs including reproductions of drawings from architects such as Paul Rudolph and Eero Saarinen.
The Future of Parking looks at how garages are being incorporated into sustainable city plans and features photographs of “green garages.”
An auxiliary gallery in the exhibition Art and the Public Imagination looks at how the parking garage has inspired popular culture from fine art to film.

Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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