What to do with an underused parking garage in Atlanta? If you’re a student at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design), you turn it into a village of three, 135-square-foot microhomes called SCADpads, then have students, faculty, and guests live in them.
Like a lot of design school projects, the SCADpads are less about practicality and more about design concepts and exploring what’s possible. The pads themselves represent three regions – North America, Asia, and Europe – and are bright and full of funky details. There are plenty of high-end touches, including a Miehl induction cooktop, responsive windows, and smart-phone controlled systems.
There is, however, a kernel of practicality in the idea of a village of microhomes with shared outdoor spaces and a community garden. Take an underutilized space (a parking garage, a vacant lot, an abandoned warehouse) and put small but complete housing units in it. Use those to house students, singles, temporary workers, or the homeless. Bring life and vitality to otherwise dead urban zones, and potentially lower the crime rate (more vibrant streetscapes tend to experience less crime for the simple reason that there are more people around and watching). There’s also potential here for disaster relief housing using space (parking spaces) that isn’t otherwise being used.
To make this viable on a larger scale, however, a few things would probably have to change. There’s not a lot of room in the SCADpads for the occupants’ personalities to shine through. They have little control over the aesthetics of their spaces, and that could be a problem. The pads would need to be portable, too, if they were going to be used as temporary or disaster relief housing. Finally, as with most design school prototype projects, the costs of the pad would need to be brought down. (No more Miehle stovetops!)
As our designer Timberly Hund (who graduated from SCAD) noted, “It’s a great example of adaptive reuse and affordable living and tiny house living. It will be interesting to see how students use the outdoor space, but I imagine it will become a playground!”
We do a lot of adaptive reuse projects here at Stevens & Associates, but most of them involve renovations to historic buildings. This was a good reminder that eventually our modern infrastructure (parking garages) will need the adaptive reuse treatment as well, and will present an opportunity to create vibrant downtown microvillages with plenty of chances for community creation.