“The general principle is similar to attendant parking except that the car is moved by hoists and trolleys to its parking space and returned in the same manner.”
Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959
Mechanical parking was one of the options the City Corporation considered for parking the 2000 cars they reckoned residents of the estate would own. They must have added Heath Robinson to the list of consultants for this part of the project.
The architects felt that providing one car parking space per flat (in the south Barbican area) was a generous provision and would probably exceed demand in the first few years. They advised that surplus parking space could be used to relieve the car parking problem in this part of the City.
In the north Barbican area, “a proportion of one space to two flats is considered suitable since the flats are of of small size.”
The architects reckon that there would be several hundred surplus car parking spaces, which could be allocated to a proposed hotel and public buildings, as well as again for doubling up as car parking available to City workers generally.
The City Corporation was considering building a multi-storey car park for 500 cars just south of Silk Street, The architects suggested that the ground floor of the area in the North Barbican beneath the podium could accommodate about 600 cars for use by non-resident car users and this could replace the proposed multi-storey car park.
The architects considered three methods of parking.
One option was “attendant parking”. This would have involved staff (no doubt in uniforms with gold braid and peaked caps) parking residents’ cars and getting them out again the next morning for the drive to work. This was abandoned because, “the inconvenience of waiting to collect the car in the morning would be extremely irksome.”
Another option they considered was “mechanical parking”, as I mentioned at the start. “The general principle is similar to attendant parking except that the car is moved by hoists and trolleys to its parking space and returned in the same manner.” What were these guys smoking? The Barbican Committee concluded solemnly that “the disadvantages of attendant parking apply with the addition of considerable capital expenditure.” But since there was an experimental system in Milan they naturally had to send delegates to pay a visit in 1958 before coming to that conclusion. (The unlucky ones who didn’t make it were probably consoled by getting a place on the delegation to inspect Garchey refuse systems in Leeds.)
The third option – and the one adopted – was “customer parking”. They described this as “the simplest, the cheapest and generally the most satisfactory for public garages.” The driver simply drives in and parks. It seems pretty obvious; but I imagine there were a lot of consultants who needed to spend time weighing up options so they could charge fees, and a lot of council members happy to go on fully-paid trips to Italy.