Fresh ideas about design
Ah, the revered parking spot: it’s close; it’s convenient. At times it’s worth doing circles for, maybe making an aggressive move towards, and even paying a hefty fee, all to claim a temporary place to keep our four-wheeled vehicles safe and sound. But in the end, that’s pretty much it… That’s all they do. String these spots together and we get ribbons and ribbons of asphalt crisscrossing our cities and towns. And worst of all, they frequently lay fallow at off-peak times—empty and waiting.
But in 2005, art and design studio Rebar, unfurled a roll of sod, wheeled in a bench and lugged a potted tree to a parking space in the heart of San Francisco, where for 2 hours, passers-by came and went until the meter ran out. People could gather, sit, chat, contemplate and simply watch the day go by from the 187-SF grassy knoll. And they did.
This simple intervention launched a dialogue that now stretches around the world. We revisit that conversation each year on the third Friday of September. PARK(ing) Day transforms metered parking spaces into temporary parklets that incite public discourse on open space.
As active placemakers who spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a place memorable and inviting, we took advantage of this year’s PARK(ing) Day to pose the question, “What makes a place great?” on the streets of Philadelphia.
To spark the conversation, we took turns answering first—each jotting down words and phrases that came to mind. Our responses tended to reflect the characteristics that define spaces; amenities like “street trees and bike lanes,” or “miles and miles of trails,” “places to sit down,” or “something to look at.”
In contrast, passers-by often came back to one thing—people. Surprised?
People need people. They might not always want to talk with them but they like them around. They like to share the same space. They are drawn to places with people and the promise of crossing paths with familiar faces and new acquaintances.
The answers were really only surprising compared to our responses. In the end, they were reinforcing. People are social beings who crave people, and nature—daylight, foliage, and fresh air; who can only work so hard for so long without reconnecting, recharging, reenergizing.
The seeds of this PARK(ing) Day dialogue are growing; the conversation is getting louder. Are these spaces intimate or sweeping? Green or shady? Art or music-infused? They are likely all and none of these things. But the value of these public open spaces is undeniable.
Let’s keep the dialogue going. Don’t let the meter run out.
To see more photos from PARK(ing) Day, please visit our Facebook page.
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