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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Theory of Car Parks


‘If only there were enough car parks in the world, then there would be space enough for everyone’. Such were the idealistic utopian ideals of Heinrich Von Rectangle, the leading post war car-parking theorist in Europe. Von Rectangle was a visionary, way ahead of his time. In a Europe still recovering from the ravages of WWII, Von Rectangle was already envisaging a car-filled future and whilst others dreamt of cars speeding down the autobahns and autoroutes of a re-built Europe, Von Rectangle was dreaming of the car parks of the future.

For the high-density inner cities of course, Von Rectangle envisaged multi-story car parks towering high above the ring roads and pedestrian precincts, where people would find easily-accessible ample car parking spaces amongst the concrete pillars and supports that would bring a bright new futuristic sheen to their car parking experience under the florescent lights of a throbbing metropolis. A place where the air would always be fresh and the high-speed lifts would whisk people from the parking decks down to the pedestrian shopping paradises at ground level. Or, if people preferred, they could take a leisurely stroll down the bright well-lit stairwells and delight in meeting and passing the time of day with all manner of interesting people as they passed each other on those stairs.

For other, yet to be even theorised about, out of town retails experience areas, Von Rectangle – inspired by the great plains of the African Serengeti with its massive migrating herds - dreamt of massive car parks that stretched as far as the eye could see. Car parks so big that they would need some sort of transport system of their own to take patrons to and from their cars and their ultimate destination, be it retail experience, airport or even – in his wilder fantasies – a huge DIY emporium that sold everything from little packets of washers right up to entire fitted kitchens.

Sadly, however, Von Rectangle never lived to see his theories come close to fruition. The typical post war car park was little more than a small piece of undeveloped waste ground, or un-reclaimed bombsite. A place where an ancient withered old man, in a flat cap with a ¾” rollup seemingly glued to his lower lip, sat in a little shed at the entrance hading out tickets before gesturing vaguely towards the back of the area while muttering something about ‘plenty of spaces up the back, me ol’ cock’ in a vaguely sexually-predator-esque manner. This was far from the modern utopia than Von Rectangle envisaged, leaving him distraught and suicidal.

Eventually, after years of depression, Von Rectangle drove his car into a parking space too tight for him even to open his door to get out of the car. Locking the car doors and throwing the ignition key away, Von Rectangle there committed suicide by gluing his seat belt in place around himself and tuning his car radio to Radio 1.

Alerted by his screams of agony, passers by called the fire brigade, but any rescue attempt was deemed far too dangerous until at least after the end of the Tony Blackburn Breakfast show. Tragically, however, by then it was too late, Von Rectangle – unable to take any more, had torn his own head off rather than listen to any more Tony Blackburn.

The Theory of Car Parks: the book - available here (UK) or here (US) for the Kindle.
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