Podiums in building parlance are raised concrete structures upon which developments are constructed with parking for the future development located beneath. The podium is generally about 10-12 feet above the finished ground surface to enable vehicles of various heights to park beneath. Such podiums can be constructed directly on the natural ground surface or at a lower level above basement space cut out of the earth. The latter are more expensive due to the cost of the additional grading, but what a difference in the human experience. Even grade level podium footings can create a positive experience if the residential development extends beyond the podium structure to the street frontage.
Landscaping can blind to reality. The 'affordable' housing shown in the image is sitting high above the parking beneath. There is no attempt to even partially place the parking below grade. You can see right through the parking to the other side. A ten foot grey concrete wall, interspersed with open steel grills looking into the carpark, greets the neighbors walking by. The entrance resembles the bars on a prison cell. Would you want this in your neighborhood? Would the residents isolated within this structure feel moved to interact with the surrounding community?
Large scale development in American cities in the last half of the Twentieth Century was characterized by buildings surrounded by acres of surface parking. Slowly, it became apparent that this approach was inimical to human interaction and the health of the city. The walkable city was disappearing, crime thrived and those that could afford to, escaped to the suburbs.
New trends arose which demanded a new approach:
- A desire to recreate the walkable cities of the past,
- Rising cost of land that made surface parking less profitable,
- A reaction against the isolation of suburban life combined with a commute that increasingly ate into the day,
- Rising gas prices
With increasing interest in city living and the need to make better use of expensive land, development began to increase in density and parking moved beneath the new structures. Although a laudible improvement over the former open parking lots, many of these 'podium' developments, with parking beneath, created their own obstacles to an attractive city life. In effect, many of them took on the appearance of fortresses set down among 'unfriendly natives'. They showed no interest in integrating with the surrounding neighborhood.