Typical parking lots at big-box stores, sprawling over several acres, are empty most of the time, unnecessarily occupying space that could otherwise be designated for more useful community projects

One way to breathe life and utility into these bland spaces could be by turning them into urban farms, with a little room left at the side for charging electric cars from onsite solar panels. At least that’s what French design firm Studio NAB is envisioning as a solution to this problem of irrational urbanism. 

The design strips away asphalt to bring life back to the soil trapped underneath it. In one section, greenhouses and fruit trees grow produce that can be supplied directly to the neighboring store or delivered to nearby homes by cargo bike. In another section, former parking spaces are converted into shared garden plots for people living in the area. 

In the final section, some parking spaces remain—but even here, the asphalt has been replaced by green space that can help sequester CO2 and absorb rainwater. An algae-filled awning over the cars sequesters more carbon and generates electricity for car chargers.

For cities, it’s clearly a better use of space for multiple reasons, from the mental health benefits of green space and the health benefit of freshly grown food to the potential for gardens like this to help mitigate problems like flooding and the urban “heat island” effect, where vast stretches of concrete make hot days in cities even hotter.

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