Five Most Beautiful Parking Garages (Yes, Parking Garages) in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a city in thrall to automobiles (though there is evidence that's beginning to change) so it's not surprising some of our best design comes in the form of parking garages. What's especially intriguing about some of these structures is their public art that appeals not only to the drivers but to (gasp!) pedestrians.

The new Weho library, for instance, is currently installing three major murals on its garage (funded by MOCA), making it a good time to take stock of our five favorite parking garages in Los Angeles.

Kenny Scharf mural at West Hollywood Library
Kenny Scharf mural at West Hollywood Library
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5. West Hollywood Library

Fairey had already been commissioned to design a piece as part of the Public Percent for Art program (along with artist David Wiseman, who is currently installing his nature-inspired reliefs in the interior of the library) before MOCA came calling. The Museum, as part of its recent "Art in the Streets" exhibit, is funding the three murals going up on garage walls. All three of the artists -- Shepard Fairey, RETNA, and Kenny Scharf -- were included in the museum show.

"Cradle" by Ball Nogues
"Cradle" by Ball Nogues

4. Santa Monica Place

Formerly an '80s embarrassment by Frank Gehry, the Santa Monica Place mall was given a major makeover last year by Jerde Partnership, transforming it into an upscale, open-air complex. The garage, with a "skin" by Santa Monica-based architects Pugh & Scarpa, looks pretty slick, but it's the large-scale public art that elevates the space. The exterior features a mural on 2nd Street by Anne Marie Karlsen and on 4th, Ball-Nogues Studio's "Cradle," which features hundreds of stainless-steel spheres suspended precariously from one of the exterior walls. Inspired by both Isaac Newton's Cradle as well as the shape of sea foam, the piece is also a phantom canopy for an imagined retail space.

3. Santa Monica Civic Center

While an environmentally-friendly garage may seem oxymoronic, this Moore Ruble Yudell design is indeed the first LEED-certified lot in the U.S. Completed in 2008 and housing 900 cars, it features solar panels, outlets for electrical cars, bike storage lockers and recycled fly ash in the concrete. All very nice, but seriously, look how pretty it is! That is one damn fine looking garage.

Look Ma! No Cars!
Look Ma! No Cars!
Benny Chan/Fotoworks

2. LAPD Headquarters

Santa Monica doesn't get to have all the fun when it comes to brightly-colored garage design. This green, um, lantern-like garage, designed by local firm John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK), could easily have been an afterthought for the massive LAPD headquarters project downtown near Gallery Row. Instead, the Main Street Parking + Motor Transport Division building takes its cue from the neighborhood, whimsically employing a glowing, 300-foot-long screen to hide the upper levels. Whimsical is not a word we would have ever thought we'd apply to the LAPD.

Five Most Beautiful Parking Garages (Yes, Parking Garages) in Los Angeles

1. LACMA garage (now destroyed)

It wouldn't be L.A. if we didn't include at least one recently example that serves as a lost totem of our visual history. LACMA's rush to expand in the mid aughts meant the museum sacrificed one of its parking garages to build BCAM. The demolition of the garage also meant the destruction of murals by artists Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee. Last minute pleas by council member Tom LaBonge to save the murals fell on deaf ears and in 2005 the garage was torn down, without saving any of the art inside.

Did we miss any great garages? Let us know in the comments.

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