Judging the Parking Podiums of DTLA’s Newest High-Rises

Elevated garages don’t have to be hideous

Cranes now dominate the DTLA skyline, with numerous towers in various stages of completion. Many of these big boys come with parking podiums—basically elevated parking garages that are typically sandwiched between the groundfloor retail and the actual apartments or condos. While previous towers usually sunk all the parking underground, these podiums (typically cheaper to build than subterranean spaces) are now becoming ubiquitous across L.A.

So, are they aesthetically pleasing? It depends. Some developers and architects manage to seamlessly blend the podiums into the tower so you don’t even see off-putting cut-outs or the presence of cars floating above the streetscape. Others weren’t so successful. Here’s some of the best and worst.

Watermarke Tower
This 35-story mixed-use building in DTLA’s South Park district was built in 2009. Other than housing the popular Faith & Flower restaurant, the Watermarke is best known for a truly atrocious parking podium. Instead of blending in with the handsome turquoise glass, the podium is festooned with bizarre slabs of concrete. Please cover this puppy up with some vertical greenery—or anything!

Eighth & Hope
This 22-story apartment building is a nice addition to the burgeoning neighborhood sandwiched between the Financial District and South Park (NoSoPa, as some call it). The parking podium is an exercise in restraint; nearly completely hidden as to disappear completely into the design. This building remains inherently urban, even with a podium taking up three of its floors.

An extended-stay apartment tower that recently opened in DTLA, Level knocked it out of the park with their podium. The design completely covers the parking levels with graceful panels that look purposeful, not obtrusive. They podium is relatively short and provides a nice deviation between the building’s retail and its pool level.

801 S. Olive Street
This under-construction building is still in an embryonic state. But according to renderings from GMP Architects, we can expect a parking podium that won’t completely suck. The three-level podium appears pretty sizable, but seems covered with opaque windows that appear similar, but slightly different, to the 23 or so stories that sit above it. The jury’s mostly still out.

Another under-construction tower in South Park, this condo building has an angular, stacked design which should fit in well with the other modern-style towers in this neighborhood. That said, the parking podium looks loud. A 1970s-style pattern decorates the podium, and clashes with the clean lines above it. It also looks semi-see-through, which is never a good look for a parking podium.

Greenland USA’s four-tower mega-project is currently under construction. While it will be nice to fill a big hole in the skyline, a 38-story condo tower—currently Metropolis’s tallest tower—is giving us the sweats. A construction camera shows a massive parking podium that’s at least six stories tall; a large billboard is sure to occupy one of the sides, but it’s not clear if there will be anything covering the other sides. Come on, Greenland, give the drivers on the 110 something nice to look at.

This two-tower project, complete with mall, is under construction across from the convention center. Two 36-story buildings will rest atop a seven-story podium that will contain both the mall and the parking. Renderings show massive digital billboards covering much of the podium, which we like. This is the perfect place—across from L.A. Live—for something like this. Bonus: it looks like it jumped out of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner-era brain.