In Tokyo, Parking Cars Makes More Money Than Parking People


Images credit Van Der Architects

Land assembly is tough in Tokyo; families often have owned little tiny plots for generations. These become their main source of income and they rarely sell them, to develop them, they often build really silly and inefficient sliver buildings with minuscule footprints. This one, by Martin Van Der Linden of Van Der Architects, has a floor area of 74.4 square meters, or 800 square feet. What is also fascinating, and depressing, is that it makes more economic sense to build a parking tower than an apartment building.

The architect explains:

When the owners of a rather small plot of land in Central Tokyo approached us to design an apartment complex the discussion on return on investment quickly led to the idea to forget about apartments and to start thinking about parking.

A parking tower has the possibility to create on a relatively small plot of land a high return on investment. The idea to make use of the almost fanatical desire to own a car and to take it to the centre of Tokyo (where it needs to be parked). The parking tower with a penthouse at the top is an opportunistic way of living in the centre of Tokyo while using other people's money to pay for the mortgage.


To make parking work on such tiny properties requires crazy expensive technology, such as this system where all of the parking spaces have to move to get at a single car. But in Tokyo it works. The architects determined that this particular system would cause too much noise and vibration for the apartment above, so they are using a "lift system" where the cars are transported to fixed parking spots. But they are going to make them pretty:


The pallets where the cars are parked on have LED lighting attached to the front thus that at night the vertical movement and the changing of the cars will create
a continuous changing pattern. The idea is that the mystification of parking will make the tower more attractive, celebrating the fact that it is a Super-Materialistic Money Generating Machine, renting emptiness in chunks of 15 minutes.

The owners' apartment on top is rather nice, and not too big.


At the top at about 17 meters the penthouse is located. The living, dinning corner and two bedrooms face south, looking out onto the Tokyo skyline. On the first floor of the penthouse are the living areas, a small kitchen, a music - study nook and a small roof terrace. The bedrooms and bathroom are on the second floor. On the roof there is space for a billboard which provides for additional funds.

Really, the architects have done an amazing job of building such a program into such a small site. But it is depressing that it is more profitable and logical for them to park cars instead of people.

Thanks for the tip from Van Der Architects

Follow me on Twitter! @lloydalter and friend me on Facebook

Tags: Architects | Japan | Less Is More