Metered Parking Spaces Re-Imagined for a Day

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On Friday, September 21, citizens from around the world converged on their cities' parking spaces as part of "PARK(ing) Day," a one-day global event. Temporary "PARKs" were constructed by scores of individuals and groups demonstrating their desire for more public urban open space and safer streets.

The process of rethinking the ways streets are used is an important first step in making permanent changes in our cities to improve the quality of urban human habitat

On Friday, September 21, citizens from around the world converged on their cities' parking spaces as part of "PARK(ing) Day," a one-day global event. Temporary "PARKs" were constructed by scores of individuals and groups demonstrating their desire for more public urban open space and safer streets. Spaces normally reserved for cars were repurposed into everything from parks to lounges to galleries.

The nexus of the global event could be found in San Francisco, where the event was originally pioneered in 2005 by San Francisco arts collective Rebar (http://www.rebargroup.org). "The process of rethinking the ways streets are used is an important first step in making permanent changes in our cities to improve the quality of urban human habitat," says John Bela, cofounder of Rebar. This year, PARK(ing) Day was organized by Rebar, Public Architecture (http://www.publicarchitecture.org) and TPL (Trust for Public Land).

PARKs were constructed in several international cities from London to Rio de Janeiro to Vilnius, Lithuania. In the U.S., Seattle had 8 PARKs, New York had 25 PARKs, and Los Angeles had 45 PARKs. But smaller cities such as Kenosha, IL, and Boone, NC, also got into the act. In total, people created 180 PARKs in 47 cities worldwide (a complete list of PARKs can be found through the PARK(ing) Day website: http://www.parkingday.org .

The 58 San Francisco installations were marked by an expanding interpretation of the "public park". Participants created everything from a croquet pitch to a pool to a sustainable agriculture installation featuring live chickens. PARK(ing) Day originators Rebar unveiled their PARKcycle, a mobile, pedal-powered public park and toured the city, visiting numerous PARK(ing) Day participants -- ultimately occupying San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's parking spot in front of city hall.

Public Architecture created a full-scale mockup of its open space vision for Folsom Street by erecting four installations along the street, including a beauty salon and dog park. It also unveiled the design of its first official Sidewalk Plaza, a permanent sidewalk bumpout -- similar to PARKs -- that represents a new form of urban open space and will soon be implemented in front of Brainwash Café on Folsom Street -- the first of its kind in San Francisco's South of Market area.

Rebar and Public Architecture are in the process of producing a publication entitled the "Streetscape Intervention Toolkit" that will include tactics used worldwide to provide permanent people places instead of parking spaces.

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Matthew Passmore
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