Few motorists will have paused to consider the aesthetic grandeur of the multi-storey car parks which swallow up their loose change.
But drivers in Birmingham and Sheffield can at least console themselves that they are circling facilities named among the world’s top ten coolest car parks.
The multi-storey car park on Charles Street, Sheffield, nicknamed the “Cheesegrater” and Birmingham’s Millennium Point have made the shortlist of the 2013 Coolest Car Parks in the World list.
The “Cheesegrater”, created by architects Allies & Morrison, has a unique exterior design, featuring angled metal panels that resembles the kitchen utensil. The multi-faceted car park, which opened in 2008, has already received a RIBA Yorkshire award.
The Millennium Point car park boasts a design reminiscent of the brutalist architecture that was popular between the 1950s and 70s.
The British car parks are competing against Herzog & de Meuron’s spacious 2010 structure in Miami, which has played host to parties, yoga classes and weddings.
Contenders vying for the prestigious award include the Michigan Theatre in Detroit which was featured in the Eminem film 8 Mile.
The theatre was opened in 1926 and slated for demolition after it closed in 1976. But engineers, fearing this could destabilise surrounding buildings, inserted a three-storey car park inside the shell instead.
The distinctive cylindrical design of the Parc des Celestins in Lyon, France, features a rotating mirror at the bottom of the central core which reflects light back up.
The competition is jointly run by FX magazine and website Stress Free Airport Parking, who have chosen car parks from all over the world. The final 10 includes entries from Melbourne and Vancouver.
Jamie Mitchell, assistant editor of FX, said: “Many people think of car parks as functional concrete blocks or as something so dull and utilitarian that they need to be hidden underground.”
“In fact, some of the world’s greatest architects, from Zaha Hadid to Herzog and de Meuron, have designed them. I haven’t been surprised by the high standard of design evident in the contenders for this competition but I have been impressed.”
British-Iraqi architect Hadid designed a spiralling, 5-storey $12.5 million parking garage at Miami Beach, near to Herzog & de Meuron’s nominated building.
Sheffield’s entry shouldn’t be discounted said Dave Greenbrown, founder of Stress Free Airport Parking and a judge. “Charles Street in Sheffield is a worthy finalist which, at first glance, many will think is a chic contemporary apartment block, not a car park,” he said.
The winner of the top car park will be named next week.
Despite the attempt to rebrand car parks as objects of pleasure, recent figures suggest around 78 per cent of Brits spend up to £150 a month on parking.
More than half - 57 per cent - of all parking spaces in the UK charge a fee. Drivers in London face the greatest expense with charges rising to up to £12 an hour.
The World's Coolest Car Parks 2013 – shortlist:
Michigan Theatre, Detroit, USA. Architect: Rapp & Rapp
Veranda Car Park, Rotterdam. Architect: Architectenbureau Paul de Ruiter
Charles Street, Sheffield. Architect: Allies & Morrison
1111 Lincoln Road, Miami. Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Cordova Parkade, Vancouver. Architect: Henriquez Partners Architects
Car Park Plaza, Cajnovas, Spain. Architect: Teresa Sapey Estudio de Arquitectura
Ballet Valet Parking Garage, Miami. Architect: Arquitectonica
Eureka Tower Car Park, Melbourne. Designer: Axel Peemoeller.
Parc des Celestins, Lyon. Architect: Willmotte & Associes
Millennium Point, Birmingham. Architect: Birmingham City Council’s in-house design team, Urban Design, with Hill Cannon