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The Living Lot
SCAD creates sustainable micro-apartments inside an Atlanta parking garage.
Claudia Steinberg / Courtesy SCAD

In response to growing urban populations and a reduction of the need for cars in cities, a cross-generational team of architects, designers, and artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) have created an experimental mode of adaptive urban housing. A group of 75 SCAD students, 12 faculty, and 37 alumni have transformed the seemingly dark, uninhabitable interior of a standard mid-century parking structure in midtown Atlanta into a light-filled communal habitat.

“The result [of the project],” said Paula Wallace, president of SCAD, in a statement, “is now a solution—a sustainable urban micro-housing community that projects relevance far beyond form and function to the Vitruvian principles of utility, strength, and delight. SCADpad creates an environment for inventive and artful living.”


Three fully functional, 135-square-foot housing units, each occupying no more than a single parking space, have been completed and are already inhabited by a pioneering group of SCAD students. Each micro-apartment, dubbed SCADpads, features art installations by SCAD alumni, a private courtyard, student-designed furniture, and home automation technologies, like smart glass windows and Philips Hue LED smart bulbs. Sustainable features include community gardens fed by filtered gray-water and a fiber optic sun harvesting system, and a composting and recycling center. The development also contains a workshop equipped with a state of the art, hands-free 3D printing interface.


The three completed SCADpads each have their own themed designs, inspired by the identities of SCAD’s global campuses, and are wholly designed and adorned by SCAD students and alumni. SCADpad Europe is clad in blue, lacquered wood panels, arranged in tile-like diamond patterns, and features a roofline of scalloped, copper tiles. SCADpad Asia contains geometric wallpaper overlaid on a touch-sensitive soundboard that plays randomized musical sounds. The minimalist, black and white exterior of SCADpad North America contrasts the lush interior of wood paneling and textural, Navojo-inspired leather textiles. Large windows in the unit provide views of the Atlanta skyline, but with the touch of an iPad located in a wall mounted 3D printed console, the windows become translucent for added privacy. The visually and technologically rich micro-apartments were built for $40,000 to $60,000 per unit.

“Parking structures are a unique and very recent building type,” said Christian Sottile, dean of the School of Building Arts, SCAD. “It’s not a structure that cities, architects, and designers have examined as opportunities for urban living.”

With 105 million parking spaces—five for every car—and approximately 40,000 parking structures operating at only half of their capacity in the United States, opportunities abound for more exciting adaptive reuse projects like this in urban centers across the country.

Nick Miller