Evolution of a building type: the case of the multi-storey garage

Philip Steadman

Abstract


A great variety of generic designs for multi-storey garages emerged in the 1920s and '30s, some of which raised the cars to the upper levels with elevators, others of which were equipped with ramps. The elevator garage survived until after World War II but today it has almost completely disappeared from America and Europe. Out of the great flowering of inter-War designs of ramp garage, many also vanished, and by the 1960s the field was dominated by one particular layout with split-levels and so called d'Humy ramps. This paper argues that garages provide a particularly clear cut and instructive example of the evolution of a building type under the pressures of a changing economic, social and technological environment. A few simple quantitative measures can be used to compare the relative 'fitness' of different designs at successive points in time. The paper uses historical data on these measures, and also makes comparisons, on a common basis, of a range of specially designed theoretical garage buildings. The analysis demonstrates the reasons for the success of certain designs and the failure of others. It is suggested that this historical process has some affinities with what is known by Darwinists as evolutionary radiation, when a new unoccupied environment is colonised by a single species that rapidly evolves into a variety of different forms.

Full Text: JOSS_2011_p1-25.pdf