The Zany Car Park Skyscraper That London Almost Had

By M@ Last edited 61 months ago
The Zany Car Park Skyscraper That London Almost Had

Could this solve London's car-garaging problem?

So asked the Illustrated London News in October 1919. This bold scheme would have seen an 18-storey car park built somewhere in central London.

With the first world war over, the motor car was becoming an increasingly common sight on the streets of London, and other large cities. Drivers needed somewhere secure to leave their expensive vehicles, prompting authorities to build more car parks.

The ambitious solution above was first published in Scientific American, to the designs of Eugene G Higgins. His tower would have capacity for 700 cars, with 40 on each floor. No height is given, but it would surely have been the second-tallest building in the capital at that time, behind only St Paul's.

The proposal anticipates the modern multi-storey car parks of the later 20th century, with its separate up-and-down spiral ramps, pedestrian lifts and above-ground parking.

Higgins's idea was way ahead of its time. Although nothing on this scale was ever built in London (the closest was the Woolwich Autostacker), schemes like Marina City in Chicago and Volkswagen's car stacks provide lofty parking in drum-shaped towers.

Bold though Higgins's plans where, they were absolutely trounced in the 1930s by this even more ambitious scheme:

This gargantuan concrete lighthouse was proposed for the 1937 Paris Exhibition. It would have stood over 700 metres high, making it well over twice the height of the Eiffel Tower, and easily the tallest building in the world at that point (today, it would be second only to Dubai's Burj Khalifa).

The 'Phare de Monde' would also have been the world's most impractical car park. As the illustration shows, it included space for 400 cars high above the city — assuming any driver could negotiate the corkscrew ramp without succumbing to dizziness, vertigo and nausea.

The scheme was proposed by Eugène Freyssinet and would have stood on Mont Valérien in the west of Paris. Needless to say, it was never built. Instead, Paris's Exhibition got the Palais de Tokyo and Musée de l'Homme.

Images via the British Newspaper Archive. Copyright The British Library Board.

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Last Updated 16 November 2016