From Paved Paradise, which will be published next month by Penguin Press.

The need for a perfect parking space has shaped the country’s physical landscape. It has become the organizing principle of American architecture, making our designs bigger, uglier, and farther apart, from the parking-first design of the strip mall, to office towers sitting atop their garage pedestals, to the house itself, in which the garage is often the largest room.

What’s more, in many municipalities, there are laws requiring every building to include parking. These prevent us from creating more housing—especially affordable housing—because parking costs so much to construct and takes up so much space. If the Empire State Building had been built to the minimum parking requirements of a contemporary American city, the surface area of its parking lot would cover twelve blocks. In the Seattle area, parking makes up 10 to 20 percent of the cost of construction of multifamily buildings and drives up apartment rents by 15 percent.

Read more from Henry Grabar’s new book from Harper’s Magazine here.