Wolf Architecture

If you’re planning on going to Disneyland after winning your next Olympic medal, there’ll be no need to encourage your car-mate to pray for parking. While elsewhere in America, white-knuckled drivers are gripping their steering wheels in frustration as they circle the block looking for that elusive space, you’ll be sailing, so to speak, off Interstate 5 right onto the entrance ramp that leads directly into the world’s largest parking structure.

This new parking facility, designed by Harry Wolf, principal of Wolf Architecture, is the keystone in Disney’s efforts to expand their Southern California kingdom. Land previously used for surface parking has now been reclaimed for a new theme park, as well as for the new garage which houses up to 10,500 cars. As drivers enter–at a rate of 60 cars per minute–they line up to one of six booths where they are directed to a specific parking area. “In elephantlike fashion, nose to tail, the cars move up through the building and park in tandem,” quips Wolf. This “conga line” reinforces efficiency as cars empty and visitors make their way to a pedestrian zone at the east end of the building, and then down an escalator that deposits them at the tram pickup. No need to worry if the lemming or elephant in front of you loses their way–plenty of smiling “cast members” are there to keep the show going.

It was no easy task preventing a structure that is as long as the Chrysler Building is high from looking like a behemoth. Wolf didn’t want the relentless appearance of a factory, or the Pentagon. Instead, he likened the design to a ship or an oil refinery: The parts make up the whole but “explicate the intelligence of the building. There is a logic to how it works.” Each facade addresses the site through its tectonics. The mass of the west side, for instance, is broken by precast-concrete planters in deference to the residential neighborhood across the street. The north and south facades comprise a series of seismic sheer walls, each 39 feet wide and 61 feet, 7 inches tall, linked by 51-foot-long post-tensioned beams. Wolf likens them to Roman aqueducts that help make the scale comprehensible. Exit stairs are pulled out to articulate the elevations. Wolf deployed louvers on the east side, where pedestrians walk to escalators, to protect eyes from the sky’s glare as well as to help drivers adjust to the dimme r light as they make their way through the garage.

The massive new parking garage is vital to the daily operation of the Disney Resort, which now includes not only Disneyland, but the new California-themed park, a resort hotel, and a Downtown Disney entertainment center. By strengthening and centralizing parking, Disney hopes to transform frustrated road warriors into worthy citizens of the “happiest place on earth.”

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