Building houses for cars


just found a disturbing post on Phil Greenspuns insightful blog:

As a visitor from Boston he was astonished to see, that architecture in California puts the automobile and its garages first:

I find this quiet interesting as we are looking for a house at the moment and I have the opposite problem: In Germany it was absolutely common from the 60ies to the 90ies to built house next to house in a row and to situate the garages in a separate garage park in the same area:

This was much influenced by architects out of Bauhaus and ULM Design school. The Weissenhof Siedlung was
prototypical, but planned when not every household had a car (behold plenty cars.)

Very impractical. I would love to have the garage in the house, but I would not want it to look like the garage ate up a victorian country house. In conclusion I don’t find it so useless, to use the front face of the house for the cars, but what puzzles me is the clash of the 18th century conception of these Californian houses and their decor with the garages.

There are alternatives on the rise but these houses are not readily available to us.

Furthermore it would be rather unpleasant to loose the front face of the house altogether and to loose the contact with neighbours as well. There are only small chances for adults to start informal interaction with neighbours and leaving your car inside your house won’t improve meeting your neighbours.

What do you think? Looking for input.

yours mo-i


Great subject!

We have a different problem in Quebec. Garages are extremely rare. This really is a pain because we have harsh winters, but have to leave the cars in the cold outside. Even new construction has garages less than half the time. No clue why…

Interestingly, in post WWII Britain, developpers began planning communities half and half with garages. After the first development was finished, they couldn’t sell the units without garages, so ended up adding them to all the units!

I think another answer to your actual question though, is putting the garage in the back or side.

Back: Here in Montreal, we have alleys behind houses and the road in front. Why not exit the garages to the alley and develop the front as a place where you can play and do activities?

side: My parents home in Arizona has the garage on the side. The driveway approaches and turns 90 degrees to provide entry. Very wasteful in terms of space, but makes the garage invisible from the street.

It’s not just California, Mo-i. It’s in every suburban city , and nearly every house built after 1970. It’s disgusting.

Although an easily accessible driveway and a garage at the end of it is the epitome of form follows function, no? The garageport-wall is the obvious result. +if you have a garage band you can pretend you’re on stage.

In the 80s in Russia and other Soviet states it was common with “garage-neighborhoods”, where if you needed a car you had to take public transport to get to it first. Not very practical, but certainly not a car-centered society and city-planning.

The sad truth was that when more and more people started to get cars they had to park them somewhere, and as there were literally no parking spaces people park their car wherever they can fit it (on the sidewalk, lawn etc).

BONUS: when you looking for above images I also found this quote:

The garages are often furnished with old furniture, so after bad rows with their wives the men can come here to stay for a few days.

I don’t think it’s disgusting, it is very simple and functional. The cars go on the road, so why not put the garage closest to the road?

The problem is that we build new homes in the style of 18th century Spanish villas. That is the disgusting part. We are trying to encapsulate solutions to modern problems in an aesthetic that was based on a building method that doesn’t really exist anymore.

Amen Yo!

Unfortunately I don’t practice what I preach, I own this: A faux 30’s-40’s bungalow with a garage in the front…

But I live in a renovated brick school house built in the 1920’s… with the garage in the basement of the Church next door which was built in the 1880’s:

But I want to build this:

At least your house design (and even the home you own) incorporates the garage into the whole aesthetic, rather than having it be the focal point from the street like most Midwestern suburban homes do.

I love all your contributions. GREAT !
Would love to see more solutions out of the rest of the world. Like Japan?


Your Idea of a home resembles a project I did years ago as an undergraduate. Which
rooms go on the first floor? The master-bedroom and a studio?

What I have learned since is, that an architect has to find or study the builtplace first.
(See Frank Lloyd Wright)

There is a great TV Series on Chanel 4 (or YouTube) called “Grand Designs (abroad)”, which
portraits several englishmen building their perfect home. Great on aesthetics and
technical ways to achive what one wants. (Also showing ways of grand failure.)

The more you know, the more problems pop up:

Finding the perfect site for a house would be easy, if our hometown hadn’t been layed out for hundreds of years.
The perfect locations are also the expensive ones. (how come… :laughing: )

As you can’t afford (or are allowed) to demolish an antique Town House this is right what we are living in.(in a flat.) The cars are on the street and in a “barn” miles away.

I more and more come to like the idea of creating something new between those!

yours mo-i

As I don’t want to pirate the “moving to San Franzisco” thread I’ll add this one here:

It astonished me to see how much of a modern megalopolis SanFrancisco has become as I saw
that Potrero view to downtown. Here is another one zooming a little farther out:

Hidden behind that is an interesting remodeling project for a town house:

That mixture of art deco, memphis and maroccan tribal something might not be of everybodies liking, but it fits nicely
into this “building houses for cars” thread as well.

Interesting to see what was torn down to make room for this spacious residence. And somebody deliberately
decided to have a front door when being able to enter the house through his spacious garage. Would love to
see some floor plans on this one. And the views in fact are priceless:

All the best.

yours mo-i

The standard design here in Denver from about 1910 to 1940ish is to put the house facing the street with a front porch, and a detached garage in back along an alley. The car essentially gets its own “house,” and that gives you a place to put all the other dirty stuff like paint, lawnmowers, whatever. The alley is where the trash goes, and where the sewer lines run (water mains are under the street). In the afternoons you hang out on the porch and watch people walk by.

I still think this is just about the best solution anyone has come up with. It’s even better if you can arrange a breezeway from the garage to the house for days when it’s raining or snowing. The alley also gives you a place to put unwanted items, which are typically picked up within 4 hours by the scrap metal entrepreneurs who patrol the alleys in pickup trucks. Very convenient.

A lot of the corner lots here have garages that cut into the basement level on the side of the house, and I always thought that was a pretty clean solution too.

The car essentially gets its own “house,” and that gives you a place to put all the other dirty stuff like paint, lawnmowers, whatever.

Lest we forget the origin of the “garage”; the carriage house. Prior to about 1880 only the affluent had any personal transportation vehicles, or even a horse for that matter. If you needed one, you went to the local livery stable and rented one.

For those who did have personal rolling stock it took up a lot of room; horses, tack, carriages, and sleighs, feed, hay and straw loft, wash rooms for the horses, as well as livery for the coachmen and footmen and their living quarters. Coaches were built of wood and finished with simple shellacs and varnishes; these finishes tended to break down when exposed to humidity and ammonia vapors (both of which were in high concentration inside of a building housing animals) so they had to be kept dry and stored separate from the horses. The tack room, where saddles, harness, and trappings were stored, were often so elegant that they featured the personal offices of their owners (the original “man cave”?) and were considered the measure of a gentleman who revered his horses.

During the era of the horse, the carriage house was logically located behind the manor house, but no less grand. So I don’t think it was too much of a jump for people to want to show off their new automobile-owner status when the day came.

Wilcox House restoration (carriage house on the left)

And in lesser degrees, based on means (obviousy converted to automobile storage; hay loft is the upper “window” with hoist beam still projecting).

And not to forget the probable ancestor of the carport; the Porte Cochere [coach door]

Partially visible behind the porte cohere is the carriage house.

Speaking of houses for cars.

LMO: Very interesting…thanks!


thank you for that chosen and illuminating addition to this thread,
that I only found now, since we were on a short trip over the weekend.
I might take some additional pictures of solutions one can find in our
neighbourhood, that was developed at the beginning of the 20st century.

All the best

yours mo-i

Also impressive to see that rendering of a yacht holding a sportscar,
as the yacht has the roofline of a sports coupe itself.

My apologies for that thread jack…

mo-i, I really look forward to seeing what you turn up in that regard.

Europe was, and still is, much more densely populated area and I imagine accommodating vehicles, and especially livestock, in an urban setting required a great deal on ingenuity.

I have shelf full books on “carriage building” ( a passion ) that have pictures of some of the interiors of these ornate old carriage houses. I think you all might find them interesting. Guess it’s time to cough it up for a new scanner…

It’s telling that while I was looking for the pictures above, many carriage houses turned up that have been converted to residences over the years. I’m not too sure that in the future people will be converting old 3-car garages to dwellings.

>> We now return to the previously programmed discussion. <<

LMO: I started thinking the same thing (living in a garage) when you posted the coach houses. I looked at one before buying a condo here in Montreal. The main house had been divided into 3-4 condos (one per floor). The coach house had been renovated into a one bedroom house. The strange part was that the coach house was in the backyard of the main house. A little too strange for me.

a friend of mine renovated an 1800’s coach house for his home, it was amazing.

On a related note, on some of the house sketches I have been playing with (for some indeterminable place and time) I am thinking about putting a partial glass wall between the garage and the living room… mostly because we both love our cars… and we are super neat so the garage is always in perfect order, so why not see the cars?


as a car nerd I feel the “partial glass wall” between living and car space is a must for our new dwelling.
We almost aquired a 70ies split-level home because of the garage being built right into it. But as the
dividing wall was the main beam for the building there was no way of getting rid of it.

There are some rather radical approaches:

Carlofts Berlin:

Car in Flat Art project by Tazro Niscino

(didn’t find a better picture of the car sitting in fact in the 3rd level of the building in Cologne)

Holger Schubert Architects

There was a project in Berlin to rebuilt an old multilevel Industrial complex like that, but
I can’t find pictures of it being realised.

Got to get back to work, as afterwards I’ll take the photographs of coach houses and garages.

All the best

yours mo-i

Awesome examples, I had seen the bottom one with the Maserati… but not the first one which is similar to what I’m thinking!