It is very hard to find a car park that leaves fine thoughts and happy moments in mind. Occasionally architectural finesse and fine handling by building contractors presents a monument that can be considered more than purely functional, if not beautiful. However, by and large, car parks are not places you would wish to spend more time than is absolutely necessary - and this is an example of such a place. While being reasonably safe, the general sense of squalor it exudes makes you feel a bit uneasy. And if you happen to be in the car park at night, you might just feel an eery tingle at the nape of your neck.
The NCP (National Car Parks) car park on the Queensbridge Road in central Nottingham, England, is a rare example of modern construction that truly captures the essence of urban decay, probably without realising it. Approached from a sidewalk, along a main internal city road near rattling railways lines, with a wall strewn with the ripped and tattered remains of myriad aged bill posters, a small flight of stairs introduces the visitor to the sight of a derelict filling station. The car park stands next to a large office building, which looms darkly as evening falls. Along the dark brick wall on the right, having descended the stairs, the freehand work of a budding scene-of-the-crime officer/artist can be viewed in the form of two body outlines. Drawn in some indelible white substance, one figure appears to have died slumped against the wall, while the other was apparently stapled to the brickwork.
For those with an eye for fashion or unusual objets d'art, this is normally a prime pick-up point for the choicest dumped refuse - second-hand clothes, old toys, abandoned cars, bits of old bill posters making a spirited effort to lead new lives independent of the walls that once supported them.
Once visitors have skirted through the thrift-shop forecourt, the grey cement-faced hulk of the Car Park comes into view, with its iron-mesh staircase and happy welcome signs announcing constant renovations for which sincere apologies are given. The staff range from the indifferent to the pleasantly friendly1, with regular patrols by security officers in bright yellow jackets and little peaked caps. The people in yellow jackets patrol throughout the day, appearing to the casual observer like itinerant sight-seers.
Inside the Car Park
While every effort has been made to make the floors inside as bright as possible, the nature of the building materials seem to absorb anything thrown at it. There is an overwhelming sense of grey and the pressing feeling that the shadows might be offering a useful hiding place to almost anything. There are cameras scattered around inside - backed up by the wandering security guards - but it somehow fails to stamp out the uneasy feeling you get as you enter. At night the feeling multiplies considerably, bordering on the sort of fear that makes you want to run everywhere, half-crouching, searching for items to use as cover.
The floors are well lit and painted a reasonable shade of grey-white to enhance the effect as best possible. The lower floors are restricted for the sole use of a local finance company, though this goes astray slightly at weekends and virtually anybody parks there. The total capacity of the car park is about 350 cars, spread across eleven levels with a east and west wing on the 5th floor which provide open air parking on what are, effectively, the roofs of two adjacent buildings.
Driving within the car park poses a bit of a problem for anyone with a car larger than a Mini, or a scooter. The space provided for movement between the rows of cars is just enough for two cars coming from opposing directions, assuming they are keeping to the suggested 5 miles per hour speed limit. However, this is rarely the case, so any driver keen on keeping wing mirrors and precious paint work needs to maintain a high degree of attention to his peripheral vision in order to see what's coming, from above or below and through the gaps between the cars. In addition, the ramps between levels are definitely not intended to provide enough space for two cars - so patience and courtesy are strongly recommended to avoid potential damage and insurance claims.
Seeking to prevent late night car park incursions the NCP have funded the erection of something akin to a makeshift Berlin Wall made of wire and wood that winds its way around the clear spaces on the ground and first floors. The only ways to get inside the building except through the accepted entrance are:
Using wire cutters to provide a suitable hole in the fencing.
Climbing past the first protected level to the next one up. This is likely to be rather difficult considering that the surfaces involved - wire, sand-blasted walls and the odd bit of barbed wire - are not best suited to simple climbing techniques.
Climb the outer walls of the staircase, avoiding a lethal strip of spikes. The strips have two rows of spikes, about three or four inches long, one pointing up, the other down.
None of these methods is recommended, especially for late night incursions by those who've had a little too much to drink.
Queensbridge Road Car Park isn't somewhere to take the kids at the weekend, but it is very reasonably priced and allows for easy access to the shopping centre of historic Nottingham. It isn't open on Sundays, though the festive season occasionally leads to very limited opening hours for shoppers.
The car park is situated about 100 metres from the train station, 200 metres from the nearest shops and 300 metres from a gathering of canal front public houses. The car park is open between 7am and 10pm, with access possible outside these hours only by means of a swipe card system, available to season ticket cardholders. Overnight parking is catered for, providing the staff is made aware that the vehicle is being left in the car park.