Following an unprecedented partnership, Indigo and the Dominique Perrault firm, a major player in French architecture, are publishing a vision of the Parking of the future. Indigo is the world leader in parking. In particular, the operator manages 1.3 million m² of underground car parks in Paris, the equivalent of 13 Montparnasse towers. This impressive report raises the question: how can parking facilities – strategically located infrastructures in the heart of cities – respond to contemporary urban challenges?

The proposals are numerous: from the development of alternative cultural venues to logistic hubs in saturated city centres to the reception of the public in underground spaces. Dominique Perrault thus offered a global and unique reflection on the redesign of underground networks: ‘Infrastructure must become architecture’. The architect introduced the concept of Groundscape, an alliance between Ground and Landscape that brings together architectural strategy and the underground. He thus paves the way to a new form of architecture. What is it?

 

#1 Indigo’s Role in the Reinvention of Underground Spaces

From the beginning of our discussion, Benjamin Voron referred to Indigo as “the pioneer of underground services”. Indeed, historically, Indigo has been a player in urban innovation, accompanying cities in their transformation for more than 50 years. In 1964, the first underground ‘concession’ model car park was built under the Esplanade des Invalides in Paris. This prompted an awareness of the need to liberate public space from the grip of the car. This transformation notably gave rise to the construction of a car park under Place Vendôme in 1970. In this manner, Indigo protects Paris’s original appearance.

Today, the parking operator must think differently about urban space and anticipate changes in mobility behaviour. This is a strategic development as the available space is ready to accommodate new uses and thus generate additional turnover. Loic Delcroix, Managing Director Iberica and South America explains: “In Colombia, sometimes 30% or even 40% of the turnover of some car parks is generated by ancillary activities.”

Rather naturally, Indigo turned to the Dominique Perrault’s firm. The architect is known in particular for the development of the BNF (French National Library). He had already distinguished himself in his search for an underground architectural strategy following the publication of his book Groundscapes in 2016. Indigo defines this concept as “a bottom-up approach to architecture … the hidden facade of the city that you’re only just beginning to uncover.”

 

#2 Scenarios for Car Parks of the Future

Indigo began from a simple observation: faced with the transformation of mobility behaviours, the metropolitan underground is an under-exploited resource. The urban strategy illustrated by the diagram is as follows: to give back as much space as possible to the street and to bring activities underground.

 

In order to adapt to the typology of their existing car parks and the cities in which Indigo operates, four scenarios are proposed:

 

#3 What Can We Learn From Indigo’s Transformation?

With this study, Indigo demonstrates the transformation of its business that has already been underway for years. From a business focused on the private car, the player is demonstrating its ability to transform its DNA while offering a range of complementary services to its users. As Benjamin Voron, Director of Communications explains, “Looking to the future, Indigo is transforming itself from a car park manager to underground operator, serving all types of mobility”.

Transforming Existing Infrastructures

In order to meet changing needs and uses, consideration of the car park of the future is already very much part of the Group’s culture. Several projects reflect this:

  • Last-mile logistics: creation of a logistics platform in the heart of Paris with a major player in the distribution sector. This 800 square metre logistics platform in an Indigo car park in the centre of Paris will be used for truck rotations at night and electric vehicles during the day. The distribution space will be created on level -1 of the car park in a dedicated space with a closed space made up of a storage area, a cold room and a reception area. The implementation of this space is a solution to meet the needs of short circuit home delivery of fresh produce. It is a logistic method that favours a fast rotation of goods (generally daily) by minimising storage time. In this case, the platform will be open 24 hours a day with deliveries at night and orders during the day. Two more such sites are being rolled out in Paris for September. This is a first in France
  • Urban planning and new mobility: modernisation and renovation of the Champs Elysees. On the initiative of the Champs-Elysees committee, a restructuring project of the famous avenue to be implemented from the present until 2030 was launched. This redevelopment plan will be based on nature, infrastructure, mobility, uses, and buildings. The modernisation of the district and its surface spaces will be based on the partial reconversion of underground spaces.

Looking to the future, Indigo is transforming itself from a car park manager to underground operator, serving all types of mobility. Benjamin Voron, Director of Communications, Indigo

Offering New Services

The parking market is being greatly transformed by digitalisation and renewed user expectations. The following two examples demonstrate Indigo’s awareness:

  • Opngo was created in 2015. The actor has 200,000 parking spaces in 5 countries. The partnership signed with Indigo in 2016 has enabled the car park operator’s existing offer to be digitised. The president of Indigo explains: ‘We are opening up our car parks to the OPnGO technological platform so that users can enjoy real-time access to our services via a convenient app for both on and off-street parking.’
  • Autonomous Valet Parking Experience: the Cyber Valet Service is a smart infrastructure that makes it possible for the vehicle to park alone. In practical terms, the driver simply needs to get out of the vehicle and use his or her smartphone to operate the controls at the entrance of the car park. The project is supported by Valeo, Cisco tested in Indigo parking (Video).
  • Indigo has also opened up its business to new activities, particularly those focused on mobility such as Indigo weel a self-service rental system for electric bikes and scooters. The group also took part in Smovengo, created in 2017 and operated by four European mobility players: Mobivia, Indigo, Smoove and Moventia

 

A historic player in the city, Indigo is a testament to its agility and his ability to transform the DNA of its sector. This change allows the operator to better correspond to the urban societal transformations underway and to the expectations of users. The unprecedented partnership signed with Dominique Perrault creates a real leap forward in this vision and enables Indigo to position itself as a true underground operator, providing mobility services in the city of tomorrow.