A rendering of the ultramodern Collins Park garage in Miami Beach, Fla.
Rendering: Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid, the celebrated London-based architect known for her sinuous designs, has created dazzling museums, concert halls and railway stations across the globe. So what has she decided to tackle next? A municipal parking garage in Miami Beach

“I’ve always been fascinated by garages,” Ms. Hadid says. “I’ve always liked this idea of bringing the street into a building and making that into an urban space.”

She has company. Miami Beach has become a magnet for high-end architects intent on rethinking what the often drab, utilitarian parking garage can be. In 2010, Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron completed a towering, airy parking structure in the heart of South Beach hat has won international acclaim. Seven blocks east, Frank Gehry created, as part of his New World Center concert hall, a steel-mesh garage that is illuminated at night by multicolored LED lights. A few blocks south sits Mexican architect Enrique Norten’s recently finished garage, featuring a taut, white concrete facade pocked with perforations like a punch card

Next up: Ms. Hadid’s $12.5 million, city-financed garage in South Beach’s Collins Park neighborhood; a parking and retail complex by Miami-based firm Arquitectonica in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood; and a planned development near the beach by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s firm, OMA, that is expected to include a parking garage, possibly topped by a restaurant.

South Beach is also slated for three new automated parking garages designed by ADD Inc Miami that are believed to be the first of their kind in Florida. After drivers drop off their cars in a bay, thin robotic platforms will slide underneath, lift them up and whisk them away to a parking spot.

For drivers, the normally humdrum experience of parking gets a dash of flair. Simon Parra, a part-time resident of the city, refuses to park his black Chevy Suburban anywhere but the Herzog & de Meuron garage at 1111 Lincoln Road. “It’s a work of art more than a garage,” he says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a view.”

He doesn’t mind paying a premium for the experience. The parking rate at 1111 Lincoln Road, $4 an hour, is more than double the rate at the municipal lot a block away.

Herzog & de Meuron’s creation, part of a $65 million project, has gone the furthest in revolutionizing traditional notions of a garage. “Our building is not designed to be a garage,” says owner and developer Robert Wennett. “It’s designed to be a civic space.”

The structure – with thin concrete slabs at irregular heights and no exterior walls, leaving vehicles on open display – is more than a place to stash cars. It features luxury retailers at the street level, a glass box housing a clothing store on the fifth floor and a soaring space with stunning views on the seventh floor that can be rented for events – all connected by an internal staircase that spirals up like a DNA helix. A few hundred people a day wander in to explore, Wennett says, and the seventh-floor space has hosted weddings, yoga classes and a Lexus commercial.

In some ways, the architectural ferment today harks back to the early 20th century, when garages were beautifully designed by well-known architects, says Shannon Sanders McDonald, author of “The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form.” By the 1970s, though, “they became cost-driven and functional and ugly,” she says. Not until the late 1980s and 1990s did architects grapple once again with how to incorporate garages into the urban environment.

Miami Beach was at the forefront then, too. Stocked with architectural gems, including Art Deco and Miami Modern buildings, the city wanted to ensure that its parking structures “became urban assets rather than urban albatrosses,” says William Cary, assistant director of the Miami Beach planning department.