Accepted Paper:

Parking Space as Interface: rethinking histories and futures of automobility  


Nicola Spurling (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper conceptualises parking space/car parking as an interface of infrastructure and systems of practice. It argues parking space/car parking were critical elements in making car use what it is today. Retelling the history of automobility through parking space can help us think forwards too.

Paper long abstract:

Car parking provides a means to study infrastructure as part of a living system of practice. On the one hand, parking space is part of the infrastructure. It represents planners' anticipations of where destinations will be, and it forms the interfaces of the road network. On the other hand, parked cars are part of a living system of practice. They signify the places of social practices that have, in one way or another, become dependent upon the car.

This paper argues that parking spaces and car parking were critical elements in making car use what it is today. Drawing on archive research and current parking strategies in Stevenage New Town, England, the paper traces parking space as interface from 1950-1970 and in the present, showing how and why it changes. The analysis contributes to the theme's aim of exploring infrastructure-in-use, specifically it focusses on intersections of planning and living systems of practice. The account also contributes to existing positions within urban planning which focus on design solutions to the environmental and aesthetic consequences of 'paving paradise', sidelining the role that parking space plays in reproducing patterns of car use.

Finally, the paper argues that retelling the history of automobility as a history of parking space can help us to think forwards too. The final part of the paper considers current innovations in automobility including electric vehicles, uber and driverless cars, and their consequences for infrastructural interfaces (including parking space) in our homes and towns.

Panel T006
Infrastructures in practice and in flux