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Has anyone ever had a good experience in a parking garage? Or, put it this way: Was there ever a more insufferable Seinfeld episode than the one shot entirely in one? This, in a nutshell, is the challenge faced by the National Building Museum’s “House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage.” No matter how many historical photographs and captions you provide, no matter how earnest the archival newsreels, you’re left with a whole lot of mundanity (sponsored by the National Parking Association and Colonial Parking). A handful of newish designs offer modicum of hope—a LEED-certified garage in Santa Monica; a pleasingly cylindrical structure in Lyon, France; an attractive facility in Charlotte, N.C., covered by 80,000 small, aluminum panels. Still, one phrase crops up repeatedly in the architectural proposals cited, both the good ones and the bad ones: “Never built.” My money says they’ll stay that way.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON DISPLAY MONDAY TO SATURDAY, 10 A.M.–5 P.M., AND SUNDAY, 11 A.M.–5 P.M., TO JULY 11, 2010, AT THE NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM, 401 F ST. NW. FREE. (202) 272-2448.