When You Must Build Parking: 'Mountain Dwellings', Copenhagen

Apparently, when this architectural firm was passed this project, a difficult parking requirement had to be dealt with. The project was to have 80 residential spaces, and 480 parking spaces - as it was a public parking garage.

The result, a stunning, colourful, terraced building that achieves both goals in amazing fashion, suggests a way parking structures could be better incorporated into the urban landscape. In Vancouver, huge parkades, already a relic of the 20th century, still dot the downtown area.

One could argue this kind of project is pointless, as there will be few new parkades built - due to the inevitable decline of the personal automobile as the primary method of transportation. This might be ideal, but, while gasoline-powered cars are certainly not going to be around in their current numbers for much longer, there's a good chance some form of automobile will remain. It would also be interesting to see how the parking area could be rebuilt into something else once all 480 spaces are no longer needed.

The building also has a long escalator, running the length of the building and through all floors, so it is easy to for pedestrians to access the whole building, or bring their bikes up to their apartment.

The project also highlights excellent apartment / condo design as well, and some lessons for Vancouver could be pulled from that. Here's what I liked as far as the residential design:

- No apartment is above or below another suite. Each suite faces the green roof of the one tiered 'below', and each has an open-air deck.

- Each apartment has a significant amount of its own outdoor space: both enclosed and private, and open and in view of the neighbours.

- Natural light enters each suite from nearly every direction.

I also like how the building reminds me of one of my favourites in Vancouver: Arthur Erickson's Evergreen. While that building is only commercial, the idea is similar. I was also reminded of Habitat 67 in Montréal.

The parking garage is another story.. it is full of colour and artistic flourishes. Before the building opened, it was venue to a local digital arts festival.

>> excellent photo by (...)